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BALLON D'OR

Who won on Ballon d’Or night? Karim Benzema, Alexia Putellas, Gavi & Thibaut Courtois that’s who

Perhaps there hasn’t been a Ballon d’Or ceremony before, in which all of the recipients were as deserving as they were this year.

Update:
Real Madrid's Karim Benzema wins the 2022 Ballon d'Or for the first time, alongside FC Barcelona's Alexia Putellas in the women's category, Gavi in the Young Player of the Year section and Thibaut Courtois who was named Best Goalkeeper of the Year.

The Messi & Ronaldo hegemony has seemingly been broken and there is now a new No. 1 in town, though it must be said there’s quite simply no player in world football more deserving than the Frenchman at the moment.

Karim Benzema wins the 2022 Ballon d’Or

While it we can’t call this one surprising, it certainly was satisfying. Regardless of where you stand on Real Madrid’s No. 9, you’ve got to appreciate that over the course of the past season and quite frankly for a few campaigns now Karim Benzema has been playing exquisite football. With that said, it’s only fitting that fellow players and patrons alike witnessed the prolific goal scorer accept the 2022 Ballon d’Or on Monday night in Paris.

Interestingly, serial winner Leo Messi was not even nominated for the award, while five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo was placed at No. 20 on the list. With that, Benzema caps off a season in which he registered some 38 goals and more importantly helped his team to their 14th UEFA Champions League title - the most won by any team in history.

Just who is Karim Benzema?

Born back in 1987 to Algerian parents in Lyon, France, Benzema began his senior career with hometown club Olympique Lyonnais in 2005. Though not initially the talisman of the club, his contributions were central to Lyon’s three Ligue 1 titles. Eventually, Benzema’s star would begin to rise and in 2008 he was named the league’s Player of the Year and included in the Team of the Year after finishing as the league’s top scorer. The following year (2009), Benzema would go on to break the French transfer record when he was signed by Real Madrid to the tune of €35 million.

Interestingly, it wasn’t the perfect fit in those early days at the Bernabeu. Indeed, the Frenchman would have his struggles, but ultimately, he would become part of the sensational trio known as ‘BBC’ which also included Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. The prolific triangle of attackers would go on to spearhead an unprecedented period of success for Los Blancos, winning four UEFA Champions League titles from 2014 to 2018. Indeed, Karim Benzema’s coronation as the world’s best player isn’t just deserved, it’s quite frankly the culmination of a work that has seen him improve year after year.

Alexia Putellas wins women’s Ballon d’Or for 2nd consecutive year

To be perfectly honest, the FC Barcelona hasn’t let up since her stunning season last year. That’s to say now that she’s received the 2022 Womens Ballon d’Or, it’s really not a surprise. The 28-year-old midfielder had another standout campaign and helped her team to UEFA Champions League title following a 4-0 demolition of England’s Chelsea FC. That same year - in August - she was named UEFA Women’s Player of the Year, becoming the first Spanish woman to win the award. Just a few months later of course, she would then receive the 2021 Ballon d’Or Féminin, becoming not just the first Spanish woman to do so, but Spaniard in general.

Unfortunately, Putellas year was derailed in July when she suffered an ACL injury during preparations with the Spanish national team for the 2022 UEFA Women’s Euro. At present she’s projected to miss the entire 2022-23 season due to a 10-to-12-month recovery timeline, however, it’s clear that the world has recognized her for what she still is: The best women’s footballer in the world.

Gavi wins the Kopa Award for Best Young Player of the Year

Following in the footsteps of his Barcelona teammate and friend Pedri, who clinched the award just last year, the Catalan prodigy has most definitely turned heads this year. While there was tough competition from the likes of Englishman Jude Bellingham and Madrid’s own French starlet, Eduard Camavinga, Gavi is the only player amongst them and the rest of nominees who is a starter for both his club and country. That would seem to indicate that the award made it into the most deserving hands.

Thibaut Courtois is the Best Goalkeeper of the Year

Without doubt, there’s been no safer pair of hands over the last year. The Belgian shot stopper has at times appeared to be in more than one place at the same time and perhaps there was no better example of that, than this year’s Champions League final. Indeed, facing an inspired Liverpool side that was loaded with attacking options, it could easily be argue that Courtois was the difference. Ultimately, the Reds could only watch in frustration as the Merengue’s man between the sticks dealt with everything they had to offer, before going on to lift Madrid’s 14th UEFA Champions League title. Again, ‘deserved’ is the word that comes to mind.

The 2022 Team of the Year: Manchester City

While they weren’t able to taste UEFA Champions League glory this past season, the ‘Citizens’ literally ran away with the English Premier League and more over, they did so playing an exquisite brand of football under Pep Guardiola’s stewardship. Though the focus, will of course be on tonight’s official recognition of the season they had, it’s hard not to think about the one they could have this year with the likes of Erling Haaland now in the squad.

With the Norwegian in record breaking form, it wouldn’t be surprising if Manchester City is in the running for this prize, when the Awards roll around next year.