Karim Benzema of Real Madrid won the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award for 2021–22, defeating Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne and teammate Thibaut Courtois.
With his victory against the duo, the France international cemented his position as the favourite for this year’s Ballon d’Or, which was presented following the Champions League group-stage draw in Istanbul on Thursday, according to DPA. Benzema scored 44 goals in 46 appearances across all competitions as he helped Madrid win a double last season. He was the leading scorer in both the Champions League and La Liga.
At the presentation, Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti was also honoured for winning the UEFA Men’s Coach of the Year Award over Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool and Pep Guardiola of Manchester City.
But Benzema received the top honour, and he will now vie for football’s most illustrious individual award.
The 34-year-old was one of 30 Ballon d’Or nominees announced earlier this month, with the veteran Madrid star appearing to be the clear favourite.
As Madrid won LaLiga, Benzema scored 27 goals in 32 games. He also scored 15 goals in 12 Champions League games as Los Blancos won their 14th European championship in Paris in May.
The mid-season World Cup caused an early release of the Ballon d’Or winner for this year, which is scheduled to be announced on October 17.
(Inputs from IANS)