Karim Benzema has won the Ballon d’Or for the first time in his career.
The Frenchman becomes only the second player aside from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win the award since 2008. Benzema’s Real Madrid team-mate Luka Modric won the prize in 2018.
Sadio Mane, who moved from Liverpool to Bayern Munich last summer, came second while Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne finished in third.
Robert Lewandowski, who was widely tipped to be one of the frontrunners for the prize, took fourth in the vote.
“This prize in front of me makes me really proud. All the work I did, I never gave up, it was a childhood dream,” Benzema said on stage.
“I had the motivation and had two role models in my life. [Zinedine] Zidane and Ronaldo as well.
“I always have this dream in my mind. Anything is possible. There was a period where I wasn’t in the French team, but I never stopped working hard, I never gave up.
“I’m really proud of my journey. It wasn’t easy, it was difficult, and hard for my family as well. To be here today, a first time for me, I’m pleased with my work and I’ll keep going.
“I want to thank my team-mates at Real Madrid and the national team. My coach [Carlo Ancelotti], the president [Florentino Perez], and the Lyon president [Jean-Michel Aulas] too. There’s a lot of people to thank.
“This Ballon d’Or is an individual prize but it’s also a collective one.”
This year’s Ballon d’Or was awarded for performance in the 2021-22 season, rather than the calendar year. Last season, Benzema was in scintillating form.
The Real Madrid striker scored 44 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions in a season where Carlo Ancelotti’s side won La Liga and the UEFA Champions League.
His performances in the Champions League drew huge acclaim. He scored hat-tricks in the last-16 second leg against Paris Saint-Germain and in the quarter-final first leg against Chelsea.
He scored again in the decisive second leg against the London club before striking again in both the semi-final first and second legs against Manchester City.
After Real Madrid’s 1-0 win over Liverpool in the Champions League final in Paris, BT Sport pundit Rio Ferdinand said: “I think the argument is over for the Ballon d’Or.
“If Karim Benzema does not get his hands on the Ballon d’Or then it will be a travesty.”
The closest Benzema came to winning the Ballon d’Or before 2022 was last year when he finished fourth in the voting. He received 239 points which was 374 behind winner Messi.
Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo finished in 20th this year.
2022 BALLON D’OR RANKINGS
- =25: Joao Cancelo (Manchester City)
- =25: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)
- =25: Mike Maignan (AC Milan)
- =25: Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea / Real Madrid)
- =25: Darwin Nunez (Benfica – moved to Liverpool)
- =25: Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig)
- =22: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
- =22: Phil Foden (Manchester City)
- =22: Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
- 21: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
- 20: Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus / Manchester United)
- =17: Luis Diaz (Porto / Liverpool)
- =17: Dusan Vlahovic (Fiorentina / Juventus)
- =17: Casemiro (Real Madrid – moved to Manchester United)
- 16: Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool)
- =14: Rafael Leao (AC Milan)
- =14: Fabinho (Liverpool)
- =13: Sebastien Haller (Ajax / Dortmund)
- 12: Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)
- 11: Son Heung-Min (Tottenham Hotspur)
- 10. Erling Haaland (Manchester City)
- 9. Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
- 8. Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid)
- 7. Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid)
- 6. Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
- 5. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
- 4. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich – moved to Barcelona)
- 3. Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)
- 2. Sadio Mane (Liverpool – moved to Bayern Munich)
- 1. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)