As expected, the 2022 Ballon d’Or was a glamorous affair as football icons from across the world gathered Monday night in Paris for the most prestigious individual football awards.
Though there were winners across the different categories, Real Madrid captain Karim Benzema and Barcelona Femeni captain Alexia Putellas were the biggest winners of the night; emerging as the best male and female footballers of 2022.
While it was back-to-back wins for Putellas having also won last year, this is the first-ever Ballon d’Or honour for Benzema.
Putellas, 28, who won the award last year, suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the summer and missed Spain’s Euro 2022 campaign.
Before her injury, Putellas was the Champions League top scorer for Barca last season with 11 goals in 10 games. Arsenal striker Beth Mead was second, with Chelsea forward Sam Kerr in third.
Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala also made history as the first African female Ballon d’Or nominee, finishing in the 16th position among the shortlisted 30 players.
As for Benzema, he was finally crowned king after being nominated for the award nine times in the past.
The French forward was the overwhelming favourite 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 44 goals in 46 appearances during the 2021-2022 season, including finishing with an amazing 15 goals in the Champions League.
Though the trio of Sadio Mane, Robert Lewandowski and Kevin De Bruyne all got to the last phase, they all finished behind Benzema.
Aside from being among the top four finishers, Mane was awarded France Football’s inaugural Socrates Prize, in recognition of his charity work in his native Senegal.
The Bayern Munich forward has built a public hospital and funded schools and families in his home village of Bambali in recent years. He also donated to the Senegalese National Committee to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Socrates Prize identifies the best social initiative by committed champions,” said a statement from France Football magazine, which added the humanitarian award to the 2022 Ballon d’Or ceremony. The accolade is named after the late footballer Socrates, who co-founded the Corinthians Democracy movement, in opposition to the ruling military government in 1980s Brazil.
Also, Barcelona and Spain midfielder, Gavi, won the Kopa Trophy for the best player of last season aged under 21 at the Ballon d’Or ceremony in Paris on Monday.
The 18-year-old succeeds his Barcelona teammate Pedri, who won the prize last year.
Robert Lewandowski received the award for last season’s top goal scorer, renamed the Gerd Muller Trophy, for the second straight year.
The 34-year-old, who joined Barcelona from Bayern Munich in the close season, scored 57 goals in 56 matches for club and country last term. He was the top-scorer in the Bundesliga with 35 goals.
Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois emerged as the winner of the 2022 Yashin award, which names the world’s best goalkeeper for the 2021-2022 season.
The Belgian had a phenomenal season; capping it up with an MVP display in the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool.