Lionel Messi (36), one of this year’s favorites for the Ballon d’Or, stated in a documentary aired on L’Équipe that last year’s champion Karim Benzema (35) earned the award.
After leading Real Madrid to the Champions League victory in 2022, Benzema was awarded the trophy. That year, the Olympique Lyonnais academy product broke his own goalscoring record, scoring 44 times in the 2021/22 season. Many of those goals came during the group stages of the Champions League. He was the fifth Frenchman to win the Ballon d’Or, and the first since Zinédine Zidane in 1998.
While Benzema has been nominated again, along with countrymen Randal Kolo Muani and Kylian Mbappé, he is not considered a favorite to win the title. The former OL attacker has since left Real Madrid to join Al-Ittihad in Saudi Arabia.
Speaking ahead of next Monday’s ceremony, Messi said that Benzema deserved his title. “Benzema really deserved it for the great season that he had and for the entirety of his career. He is a marvellous player. This reward is important for him and for football,” said the former Paris Saint-Germain forward, who now plays his club football at Inter Miami.