'Close the votes' – Henry crowns Benzema Ballon d'Or winner after Champions League win

By Sports Desk May 29, 2022

Thierry Henry declared the race for the Ballon d'Or over after Karim Benzema lifted the Champions League with Real Madrid on Saturday.

Benzema became just the second French captain to lift the trophy, after Didier Deschamps with Marseille in 1993, following a 1-0 win over Liverpool at the Stade de France.

Carlo Ancelotti's side were largely indebted to the heroics of Thibaut Courtois after the goalkeeper produced nine saves – a Champions League final record since Opta began recording data in 2003-04.

Vinicius Junior may have scored the winner in Paris but a 14th European Cup for Madrid, which is double the tally of second-best Milan (seven), came down to Benzema's efforts throughout the knockout stages.

The 34-year-old netted a hat-trick against Paris Saint-Germain, four goals across two legs with Chelsea and three in the tie with Manchester City, including an extra-time penalty to win the semi-final.

Benzema has been involved in 59 goals this season (45 goals, 15 assists) in all competitions, with only France team-mate Kylian Mbappe (60) bettering that total across Europe's top five leagues.

And Arsenal great Henry believes Benzema ended the debate for who should win the Ballon d'Or this year with his success in Paris.

"I just wanted to say something for France Football or whoever is voting. Close the votes, Benzema won it. Bye," Henry said to CBS Sports after the final.

France coach Didier Deschamps will hope Benzema can lead Les Bleus to more World Cup glory in November, and he echoed Henry's sentiments by suggesting the Madrid talisman should win the award.

"The answer is simple: yes. This new title and the sporting season achieved with his team, and what he was able to do, he was so decisive," Deschamps told Telefoot.

"Obviously, he was already one of the favourites and he deserves this reward."

The Ballon d'Or has been won by Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi in 13 of the past 14 seasons, barring when Benzema's team-mate Luka Modric was named the winner in 2018.

While Benzema may believe his achievements on a personal and team level are enough to stave off Liverpool's Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, the Madrid forward insisted he will be satisfied either way.

"Obviously, I finished my season, now I will join up with the national team," Benzema told Canal Plus.

"I think at club level I can't do better. We'll see what happens but in any case I'm proud of what I've achieved."

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    Kylian Mbappe suggests Karim Benzema would have to "stop thinking about the Ballon d'Or forever" if he did not win the top individual award this year.

    Benzema is the favourite among the 30 Ballon d'Or nominees announced by France Football on Friday.

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    "Instead of Karim, if I don't win there [in that position], I stop thinking about the Ballon d'Or forever."

    It has been a fine week for Benzema, who surpassed Raul as Madrid's outright second-highest goalscorer in a midweek Super Cup win over Eintracht Frankfurt, while he was shortlisted for the UEFA Men's Player of the Year award ahead of his Ballon d'Or nomination.

    But prior to the match in Helsinki, Benzema said: "I'm not like that in terms of whether I'm the best or not. I always give my all for this club, the best club in the world.

    "I have to give more and more every year. It's true I had a very good season, but other people can comment on if I'm the best in the world. I'm focused on helping my team in matches, that's all I can say.

    "I'm not thinking about [the Ballon d'Or]; there's trophies to win every year, that's very important. I always stress the importance of success for the team that leads to individual success."

    After Madrid's victory, Los Blancos coach Carlo Ancelotti said there was "no doubt" that Benzema was the world's best player.

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