"Benzema is alone in the race for the Ballon d'Or", estimates Marca, the best-selling newspaper in Spain, where no one doubts that the number 9 of the "White House" can finally lift the trophy, almost monopolized by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for a decade.

"He's good now, but he's been since he arrived. Now they can't take the Ballon d'Or away from him," said Florentino Pérez, the all-powerful president of Real, on Saturday night. after the coronation of his team in La Liga.

As it does every year for one of its players, the merengue club has already started its campaign on social networks to promote its favorite center forward for the vote of international journalists.

Outside Spain, "KB9" is also almost unanimous: "+ Benzemagic + is a serious contender for the Ballon d'Or", judges the Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport, while L'Equipe, in Paris, gives the floor to an ex-winner, Jean-Pierre Papin, who affirms: "For me, today he is the best striker in the world, the best number nine. The last dream for Karim is the Ballon d'Or. I think that today he is one step ahead."

The joy of Karim Benzema, author of the 3 goals of the victory of Real Madrid, 3-1 against Paris Saint-Germain, which allows the people of Madrid to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League, March 9, 2022 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium GABRIEL BOUYS AFP/Archives

"Ronaldo's Shadow"

Regular for years, the French international with 94 selections is currently reaching heights in the Champions League: already 14 goals, including nine in the knockout phase, with two hat-tricks against Paris and Chelsea.

The joy of Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, after his goal scored against Chelsea, in the Champions League quarter-final second leg, April 12, 2022 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU AFP / Archives

His double, and especially his phenomenal performance in the semi-final first leg against Manchester City (4-3), only reinforced his aura.

"What a fantastic game! Give the Ballon d'Or to my guy +Benzi+," tweeted former Gunner and current Fenerbahçe player Mesut Özil.

Even his opponents are impressed: "Currently, for me, Benzema is, with Lewandowski, the best striker in the world," said City midfielder Ilkay Gündogan: "He is good with both feet, good in the air. I think he was underestimated in the past."

Striker Karim Benzema beats Manchester City's Ukrainian midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko and reduces the score for Real Madrid in their Champions League semi-final first leg on April 26, 2022 at the Etihad Stadium Oli SCARFF AFP

"For a long time, adds the German international, he was in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo especially in the media, but now he is finally getting the attention and recognition he deserves".

"And it's not just about what he does, but above all about how he does it," enthused Kicker magazine this week, in Germany, a country where we have been waiting for years. to see rewarded Robert Lewandowski, the gunner of Bayern twice best Fifa player but never Ballon d'Or.

Sadio Mané in ambush

"Karim Benzema has more talent" than Lewandowski, however, slices in Kicker the former Spanish international goalkeeper Santiago Canizares.

"He combines better, he often plays away from the box, he can build like a number 10, shoot like a 9... Benzema is a more complete player."

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, during the match of the 31st day of LaLiga against Getafe, on April 9, 2022 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU AFP / Archives

Its competitors?

Apart from the Pole, who has little chance this year after the elimination of Bayern in the quarter-finals, Sadio Mané is undoubtedly the best placed.

The Senegalese scored the decisive shots on goal which offered the first CAN in its history to his country and sent his team to the World Cup.

Sadio Mané savors his happiness after the coronation of Senegal in front of Egypt at the CAN in Yaoundé, February 6, 2022 CHARLY TRIBALLEAU AFP

"When you're not Messi or Ronaldo, you probably have to win the Champions League" to have a chance of winning the Ballon d'Or, believes however his coach at Liverpool Jürgen Klopp.

In the event of a Madrid-Liverpool final, the trophy could then be played over a match.

The 2021-2022 winner will be chosen in September or October by a jury of 100 journalists (compared to 170 previously) representing the first 100 nations in the Fifa rankings, which eliminates a certain number of African voters who could have favored Mané.

There remains a return semi-final and perhaps a final in Benzema to enter the pantheon of football definitively.

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© 2022 AFP

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