French striker Karim Benzema won the 2022 Ballon d’Or, world soccer’s top individual award, in Paris Monday evening.
The Real Madrid star was the favorite to win this year’s trophy, with last year’s winner Lionel Messi not among the nominees for the first time in 15 years. The 34-year-old Benzema led Real Madrid to its 14th UEFA Champions League title last season and is regarded as one of the best strikers of all time. His victory breaks a stranglehold on the award by Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who’ve won all but one of the Ballon d’Or trophies handed out since 2008.
“This was my dream,” Benzema said after receiving the award. “This prize in front of me makes me proud of the work I did from a young age. I always had this dream in my mind that anything was possible.”
Born in Lyon to Algerian parents, Benzema began his professional career at Olympique Lyonnais in 2005. He was named the French Ligue 1’s best player in 2008. His 2009 transfer to Spain’s Real Madrid for $44.8 million (€35 million) was a record for French soccer at the time of the deal. According to Sportico’s calculations, he earns $25 million a year. His contract with los Blancos will end at the conclusion of this season.
Benzema has endorsement deals with Adidas, EA Sports, Bwin, and French companies Le Credit Lyonnais and Societe Francaise du Radiotelephone (French National Telecom company). He signed a brand ambassador deal with Fendi last month and has been promoting Jean Paul Gaultier sunglasses.
Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mane finished second to Benzema in the voting, with Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne third and Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski fourth.
Barcelona’s Alexia Putellas became the first female player to win consecutive Ballon d’Or trophies since that award’s inception in 2018.
While Ballon d’Or regulars Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo did not make it to the shortlist this year, they are still expected to take home $100 million each on the season. Messi, a seven-time trophy winner, ranks third on Sportico’s highest-paid soccer player list, while Ronaldo, who has five Ballon d’Or awards, is second behind Kylian Mbappe.