Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema hopes to follow in the footsteps of club greats Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane by winning the Ballon d'Or.
The 33-year-old forward has recently returned to international football after being recalled to the side by current boss Didier Deschamps, though they were unable to succeed at Euro 2020. He has though experienced international success this season as Deschamps guided his team to winning the Nations League in a recent mid-season break.
However, 2020-21 was a fine season for the Frenchman and he continues to contribute into the next season. Last year he was the second highest scorer in La Liga. Benzema scored 30 goals for the club last season, his joint-highest haul, and has 290 goals for the side since his arrival in 2009.
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This season he has 11 goals from 11 appearances across all club competitions. A win would be his first at the Ballon d’Or, but he has won the French Player of the Year award on three occasions already, in 2011, 2012 and 2014. He also has four Champions League titles and three Liga wins to his name.
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With the support of the Real Madrid PR machine behind him, Benzema has emerged as one of the favourites for the 2021 Ballon d’Or (there was no winner last year as the event was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic). Real president Florentino Perez regards the award as a reflection of the glamour and prestige of the club as a whole, meaning Benzema has support in an attempt to persuade those voting for the award to go with the striker.
Benzema explained this week that it would be a dream come true to win the trophy.
Speaking on French television channel Canal+ over the possibility of bringing home the trophy on November 29, he said: "Win the Ballon d'Or? Yes, that would be one of the many dreams I have had since childhood. Of course I dreamed of it as a kid.
My idols, whether it's R9 [Ronaldo] or Zizou [Zidane], they came to Real Madrid and won the Ballon d'Or. And that's one of the little things I think about. Today, I’m not far from it.
Zidane was twice Benzema’s manager at Real Madrid, and is keen to see his former charge lift the award.
He explained his belief to Telefoot: "We are talking about a player who deserves to win this Ballon d'Or.
He's an incredible player, I had the great honour of coaching him. He associates easily with others. He knows how to do everything in the field.
"I hope he can be rewarded with this Ballon d'Or."
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There are, though, a few other players who could beat Benzema to the award.
The favourite is Lionel Messi, who despite a disappointing final season with Barcelona was still one of the best in the world, and won the Copa America with Argentina.
Another contender is another veteran European striker, Polish international and Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski, who has scored more than a goal a game in the Bundesliga so far this season. Another thirty-something, Cristiano Ronaldo, may be looking for one final piece of individual recognition at 36 now he has moved back to Manchester United.
There is also a possibility that Jorginho could be given the nod, with the Italian midfielder guiding his national side to Euro 2020 glory, and being an integral part of Chelsea’s Champions League success last season.
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