Karim Benzema summed up an unbelievable 2021-22 campaign to win the Ballon d’Or 2022 award on Monday, in Paris. The Real Madrid captain played a crucial role in his side’s La Liga and UEFA Champions League trophies last season. He also became the first Frenchman to win the Ballon d’Or since Zinedine Zidane did so in 1998.
Zidane, who is also Benzema’s former coach, hailed the forward and revealed his secret behind the success. Under Zidane’s tutelage, Benzema won two La Ligas and Champions League titles.
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“I’m almost an older brother to Karim. That’s what we both like to call each other: little brother and big brother”, he said, during an interview with L’Equipe.
“We have more or less the same background. He’s from Lyon, I’m from Marseille… We both grew up in a neighborhood where it wasn’t all easy for us at the beginning. We were simple youngsters from the suburbs who had the dream of becoming professional footballers and we achieved it with a lot of hard work. We really have a lot of things in common, even from our origins. Our families come from nearby villages in Algeria, in the small Kabylia. We’ve talked about it several times”.
Zidane pointed out Benzema’s personality as the reason behind his Ballon d’Or award, saying, “He arrived very young. Even when he had problems and people thought he was going to throw in the towel, he said to himself ‘I want to win here and I’m going to be the best’. And he managed to do it. Despite the criticism and the enormous pressure at a club like this, he never got discouraged, he’s very strong. That’s what I love about him. He never gave up. He let people speak and, today, his record and his stats speak for him”.
Also labelling him as a Real Madrid legend, Zidane stated, “He became a legend at this club, he achieved incredible things and will be remembered by people for a long time”.
“I am happy for him because he deserves what he has won. He always had confidence in himself, even when some people were saying. Karim, he doesn’t score enough goals to be a No.9′. And it wasn’t fair, because when he doesn’t score, he always makes others play well”, he added.
The 34-year-old registered 44 goals in 46 matches, including 15 in the Champions League. Some of his famous moments included a 17-minute second-half hat-trick against PSG in the round of 16 of Champions League, and then another away vs Chelsea in the quarter-final first leg. He also found the back of the net thrice over both legs of the semi-final fixture against Manchester City.