Real Madrid captain Karim Benzema was in dreamland in Paris on Monday when he was named the best player in the world.
Karim Benzema said he had realised a childhood dream by winning the Ballon d’Or for the first time on Monday.
The Real Madrid captain was rewarded for an outstanding 2021-22 campaign when he was named the best player in the world at the Theater du Chatelet in Paris.
Benzema scored an astonishing 44 goals in 46 games as Madrid completed the LaLiga and Champions League double under Carlo Ancelotti last season.
The French forward, who turns 35 in December, became the oldest winner of the Ballon d’Or since the great Stanley Matthews in 1956.
Benzema was presented with the award by his former Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane, who was the last French player to win in 1998, on a special evening in his homeland.
He said: “When I see this award in front of me, I’m really proud of the work I’ve done. It was a childhood dream, to be motivated… I had two role models, Zidane and Ronaldo [Brazilian legend] and I always had a dream in my head, that everything is possible.
“It was a difficult period not being in the French team, but I never stopped working hard or gave up.
“I’m really proud of my journey here. It wasn’t easy, it was hard. Being here today for the first time, I’m happy, pleased with my work and I want to continue.
“I want to thank all my teammates at Real Madrid and in France and my coach and the president of Real Madrid who is here tonight and also for the support of Jean-Michel Aulas [Lyon president].
“There’s a lot of people to thank. It’s an individual award, but it’s still a collective one because everyone who played a part in it.”
Former Bayern Munich forward Sadio Mane came in second, Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne third and Robert Lewandowski fourth after an outstanding last season for Bayern Munich before joining Barcelona.
Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah was fifth and Paris Saint-Germain’s prolific French international Kylian Mbappe only sixth.
Benzema added: “Age is just a number for me. People are playing into their later years now and I still have that burning desire.
“It’s this drive that kept me going and never let me give up. It kept this dream alive and the fire behind me. I just want to make the most of it if I can.”