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Ballon d’Or success will cap remarkable season for Real Madrid star Karim Benzema

<i>Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto/Reuters</i><br/>Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring Real Madrid's first goal against Barcelona on Sunday.
Jose Breton via Reuters Connect
Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto/Reuters
Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring Real Madrid's first goal against Barcelona on Sunday.

By Ben Morse, CNN

It is likely to mark the end of an era.

Karim Benzema is the overwhelming favorite to win the Ballon d’Or on Monday, and the Real Madrid star’s expected success could finally signal the end of the stranglehold Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have had on the award.

Either Messi or Ronaldo have won the Ballon d’Or 12 of the 13 times the prestigious trophy has been awarded in the last 14 years — including sharing it 10 consecutive years between 2008 and 2017 — with Luka Modric the only player to win it during that time frame in 2018.

Although Messi won it in 2019 and 2021 — with the 2020 edition canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic — neither the Argentine nor Ronaldo were named on the 30-man shortlist for this year’s award, with both enduring stilted seasons at their respective clubs.

Having been nominated for the award nine times before, Benzema is the overwhelming favorite to win this year after enjoying a stellar season leading the line for Real Madrid.

The 34-year-old scored key goals as he helped Real Madrid win both the Spanish league title and the Champions League last season.

Benzema scored a total 44 goals in 46 appearances during the 2021-2022 season, including finishing with 15 goals in the Champions League — the competition’s top scorer — as well as reestablishing himself in France’s international side.

The likes of Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe, Robert Lewandowski — who is now at Barcelona after joining the Catalan team from Bayern Munich for the start of the current season — and Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne were also on the initial 30-man Ballon d’Or shortlist.

For the women’s award, a trio of England’s Euro 2022 winning side — Millie Bright, Beth Mead and Lucy Bronze — headline the nominations while Barcelona and Spain star Alexia Putellas is in the running to win the Ballon d’Or Feminin for the second consecutive year, despite not playing since suffering an injury ahead of last summer’s Euros.

Benzema has also begun this season well, with five goals in his first 10 appearances, as well as a goal in this Sunday’s El Clasico victory against archrival Barcelona.

Having played second-fiddle to Ronaldo for so many years at Real Madrid, Benzema has established himself as one of European football’s best strikers in recent years.

In every season since Ronaldo left for Juventus in 2018, Benzema has scored at least 27 goals as he transitioned into Real Madrid’s main threat.

And last season was his finest season in the famous white kit of the Spanish giant, as he helped propel the team to a record-extending 14th Champions League title and a dominant La Liga triumph.

The award, one of football’s most prestigious prizes, has undergone a format change from previous years.

Typically players were assessed on their performances over a calendar year but this season sees them judged over a football season — in this instance, the 2021-22 campaign.

A selected journalist from each of the top 100 nations in the FIFA world rankings picks their top five players from the shortlist and the player ranked first on a voter’s form receives six points, second is given four, third gets three points, fourth gets two points and fifth one point.

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