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Benzema wins Ballon d’Or after fantastic year with Real Madrid

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Karim Benzema receives the Ballon d’Or at a ceremony in Paris on Monday

FRANK FIFE

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France striker Karim Benzema won the Ballon d’Or at a ceremony in Paris on Monday, with the award coming after his stunning performances helped Real Madrid win the Champions League and La Liga last season.

Benzema, who is the first Frenchman to win football’s most prestigious individual award since Zinedine Zidane in 1998, has scored 44 goals in 46 games for his club including 15 in the Champions League.

Benzema, who also won the UEFA Nations League with France last season, lifted Bayern Munich and Senegal star Sadio Mane into second place.

Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City and Belgium finished third, while Barcelona and Poland star Robert Lewandowski finished fourth.

Winning the prize, awarded by France Football magazine, crowns a remarkable career boost for Benzema, who was excluded from the France team for five and a half years due to his involvement in a blackmail scandal around a sextape involving his teammate Mathieu Valbuena. .

He was later given a one-year suspended prison sentence and fined 75,000 euros ($73,848) for his involvement in the case.

However, he returned to the national team for last year’s European Championship and will now go to the World Cup in Qatar with France next month.

He will be 35 on December 19, the day after the World Cup final.

Benzema is the oldest Ballon d’Or winner since the very first winner, Stanley Matthews in 1956.

The former Lyon striker is also the fifth Frenchman to win the prize, with Raymond Kopa, Michel Platini and Jean-Pierre Papin all having won the trophy before Zidane’s victory in 1998.