Real Madrid and France striker Karim Benzema deserves to win the Ballon d’Or this year after helping guide his side to the Champions League title, seven-time winner Lionel Messi, a seven-time winner of the prestigious award, said on Monday.
Benzema enjoyed the best season of his 13-year career at Real, scoring 44 goals and 15 assists in all competitions as they won a LaLiga-Champions League double.
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The 34-year-old topped the goalscoring charts in both competitions and netted hat-tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the round of 16 to secure Real progress.
“There’s no doubt, it’s very clear that Benzema had a spectacular year and won the Champions League,” Messi told Argentinian television.
“He was fundamental in every game from the round of 16. I think there is no doubt this year.”
The Ballon d’Or award for the best football player in the world will be awarded on October 17, and the nominees will be announced on August 12.
The trophy will now be awarded based on a regular season from August to July rather than a calendar year.
Real Madrid’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool gave them their 14th European Cup triumph – twice as many as the next most successful team, AC Milan.
Benzema’s hat-trick in the second leg eliminated PSG 3-2 on aggregate in the round of 16, once again preventing the French club from winning Europe’s elite club competition for the first time.
“The Real Madrid game killed me and everyone in the dressing room. We had a lot of hope. It makes me want to win again,” Messi added.
“But the best team doesn’t always win the Champions League. I don’t take anything away from Real Madrid; they weren’t the best in this competition and yet they beat everyone.”