(TalkSport) Real Madrid star Karim Benzema has won football’s biggest individual prize after taking home his first Ballon d’Or award.
The Frenchman fended off competition from Robert Lewandowski, Kevin De Bruyne, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to scoop the prestigious award, with those four making up the top five.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were both in attendance at the ceremony, but neither player were in contention for the trophy.
Messi wasn’t even named in the final shortlist, while Ronaldo came 20th in the voting.
It is the first time since 2006 that at least one of the pair haven’t appeared in the top three.
Benzema has become the eighth different Real player to win the Ballon d’Or – with the last being Luka Modric in 2018.
Speaking after winning the top prize, he said: “This prize in front of me makes me proud of the work I did from a young age.
“I had the motivation, I had two role models in my life, Zidane and Ronaldo. I always had this dream in my mind that anything was possible.
“There were difficult periods where I wasn’t in the French team but I kept working hard. I’m really proud of my journey here. It wasn’t easy, it was difficult. It was hard for my family as well. To be here today, I’m just really happy. I would like to thank my team-mates.”
The 34-year-old enjoyed the best season of his career last term after banging in 44 goals in all competitions from 46 outings.
His goals fired Los Blancos to LaLiga and Champions League glory where he was the top scorer in both competitions.
Real looked to be down and out in the European Cup in each of the knockout rounds against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City.
He single-handedly knocked out PSG after his hat-trick in the Round of 16 second leg, where he then followed that up with four goals in the quarter-final against the Blues.
The ex-Lyon marksman then found the back three times in semi-final against the Citizens before drawing a blank in the 1-0 final victory over Liverpool.
And Benzema has carried on his fine form this campaign having scored four times from six Spanish top-flight matches.
He broke the deadlock in the 3-1 victory against rivals Barcelona at the Bernabeu on Sunday to help Real move back to the top of the table.
There is set to be more joy for Benzema with the forward believed to be close to penning a new deal at Real until 2024.
Benzema’s team-mate Thibaut Courtois made it double delight for Real after winning the Yashin Trophy.
Named in honour of legendary Russian goalkeeper Lev Yashin, Courtois has scooped the award after his heroics in the Champions League final where he was named as the man of the match.
And Barca starlet Gavi made it a LaLiga treble after he won the Kopa Trophy for being the best youngster in Europe.