Karim "Cream" Benzema
The Ballon d'Or is a prestigious award given annually to the best soccer player of the year. It's a big deal.
Yesterday, after a successful 2021-22 campaign with his Spanish club Real Madrid FC, the French striker (and my personal love interest) Karim Benzema took home this honour. If you've been paying any attention to soccer in the past year, you will know that this was more than deserved. The man has been an absolute BEAST. The Frenchman guided his club to a La Liga title, meaning they finished the season in the Spanish league as the team with the best record. Not only this, but he was also the top goal-scorer of the campaign, finishing with 27 goals in 32 matches. Did someone say bon appetit?
The Ballon d'Or, however, is not easy to win. A domestic title, albeit very impressive, would not guarantee Benzema this MVP-type award. There were other strong contenders from other parts of Europe, with some even being from his own team. He'd have to step up his game even more. Anyone can cook... but only the very best can create. And Chef Benzema was ready to serve.
The biggest title in club soccer is undoubtedly the Champions League. This is a competition where the top 32 clubs from Europe compete in a yearly tournament to determine who truly is the king of Europe. Claiming the Champions League title, and performing to a high standard while doing so, is a big bonus towards a player's chances of winning the Ballon d'Or. The entire world had its eyes on Karim, salivating as they waited for the course meal he would deliver.
Real Madrid were not favourites to win the Champions League. They had lost Sergio "no filter aggro" Ramos to PSG, and with their cover star Ronaldo leaving a while ago, needed an inspirational performance from all their players. There were other strong contenders such as Manchester City and Liverpool from England, PSG from France, and Bayern Munich from Germany. But none of these teams had my man, Cream Benzema.
Benzema led his team past the group stages with ease, scoring goals left, right and centre. He made opposing goalkeepers look sillier than a rat in a chef's hat. Their first opponent in the knockout stages, PSG, had a lead in the first leg then choked hard in the 2nd. Chelsea, their next opponents, tried to claw their way back from a deficit and mounted a good struggle, but were eventually suppressed. The semifinals were crazy difficult, where a last minute winner was what pushed them over the edge against Manchester City to pull off an absolute miracle to the finals. After a hard fight, Real Madrid were European champions. The leading goal-scorer of his tournament? You guessed it. Cream Benzema with 15.
It's rare to see players in their mid 30s being so dominant in sports. Of course, you have LeFreak James in basketball, Federer in tennis and so on, but winning the Ballon d'Or is a crazy fete even for prime Messi (he did win 7 but still). I can't be happier for my king. At age 34, he has cemented himself in history as a true leader and legend.