Karim Benzema said he fulfilled a childhood dream by winning the Ballon d’Or for the first time on Monday.
The Real Madrid captain was honored for an outstanding 2021-2022 campaign when he was named the best player in the world at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.
Benzema scored a staggering 44 goals in 46 games as Madrid achieved a La Liga and Champions League double under Carlo Ancelotti last season.
The French striker, who turns 35 in December, is the oldest Ballon d’Or winner since Stanley Matthews in 1956.
Benzema received the award from his former Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane, who was the last French player to win in 1998, on a special evening in his home country.
He said: “When I see this award in front of me, I am really proud of the work done. It was a childhood dream to have motivation… I had two role models, Zidane and Ronaldo. [the Brazil legend]and I’ve always had this dream that anything is possible.
“There was a difficult period when I was not in the French team, but I never stopped working hard and never gave up.
“I am very proud of my journey here. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t easy. Being here today for the first time, I am happy, satisfied with my work and want to continue.
“I want to thank all my teammates from Real Madrid and France, my coach and the president of Real Madrid, who are here tonight, as well as the support of Jean-Michel Aul. [Lyon president].
“There are many people to be thanked. It’s an individual award, but still a collective one because of all who have played a part in it.”
— Golden ball #ballondor (@francefootball) October 17, 2022
Former Liverpool Bayern Munich striker Sadio Mane came in second, Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne in third and Robert Lewandowski in fourth after an outstanding final season for Bayern Munich before moving to Barcelona.
Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah finished fifth, while France’s Paris Saint-Germain scorer Kylian Mbappe was only sixth.
Benzema added: “Age for me is just a number. People play until they are old, and I still have this burning desire.
“It was this drive that kept me going and never let me give up. It kept that dream alive and was the fire behind me. I just want to get the most out of it.”