Ballon d’Or 2022 Odds: Karim Benzema clear favourite for award ahead of Mohamed Salah
Club football for 2021/22 ended in climatic fashion on Saturday night as Real Madrid claimed the Champions League over Liverpool.
With the new rule changes, the Ballon d’Or will be awarded for performances across a single season rather than a calendar year, meaning Saturday’s Parisian showdown offered those vying for the award one final chance to stake their claim.
Lionel Messi is the reigning Ballon d’Or champion, taking the 2021 crown ahead of Robert Lewandowski who instead had to settle for the inaugural Striker of the Year award. But there is almost certainly going to be a different winner this year with Messi struggling at Paris Saint-Germain.
Lewandowski was the early favourite and did win FIFA’s The Best Men’s Player for 2021 but Bayern Munich’s exit from the Champions League and Real Madrid’s subsequent triumph has seen his odds drop massively, with a new name at the top. And it’s not Mohamed Salah.
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Let’s take a look at some of the front-runners for the award this year.
Karim Benzema is finally getting the praise he has deserved for so many years. The clinical French marksman was the protagonist in this season’s Champions League, almost single-handedly getting Real Madrid through to the final after some miraculous showings against PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Vinicius Junior stole the headlines in Paris with his deciding goal, while Thibaut Courtois got his hands on the Man of the Match award, but Benzema has been the standout star across the tournament for Los Blancos, after netting back-to-back hat-tricks against PSG and Chelsea, while also scoring 10 in the knockouts.
Over 46 games in all competitions, Benzema scored 44 goals but also provided a further 15 assists as Real Madrid reclaimed La Liga in very convincing fashion and won the big one in the Champions League. Who needs Kylian Mbappe?
“What a fantastic game. Give my boy Benzi the Ballon D’Or,” former Real team-mate Mesut Ozil wrote on his official Twitter page last month. Benzema was also part of the France side that won the UEFA Nations League at the start of the season, scoring in both the semi-final and final.
Perhaps the only man that can stop Benzema is Mohamed Salah, who also had a fantastic season. The Egyptian claimed his third Premier League Golden Boot alongside joint-winner Son Heung-min, scoring 23 goals in 35 appearances. He also won the Playmaker Award with 13 assists, one ahead of team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold. Salah was ultimately the only player to hit more than 10 goals and more than 10 assists in the Premier League this season, despite missing two matches while he was at the Africa Cup of Nations. At Afcon, Salah scored twice though it was not enough to prevent Egypt from falling to a final defeat to Senegal – who also knocked them out of World Cup qualifying.
Naturally, a fair few Liverpool and Real Madrid players dominate the charts, with Sadio Mane among the leading candidates. The 30-year-old has enjoyed a stellar 2022 after winning Senegal the nation’s first-ever Africa Cup of Nations, netting the deciding penalty against Egypt in the final, while he also booked an appearance at this year’s World Cup after guiding his country through the qualifiers, again at the expense of Egypt. To go with that, he has two domestic cups to his name alongside Salah, winning the FA Cup and League Cup with Liverpool, while it certainly shouldn’t be downplayed getting to the Champions League final and pushing City to the final day in the Premier League title race.
Kylian Mbappe was PSG’s standout player this season, the star of an underwhelming team that still won the Ligue 1 title. But that doesn’t mean Mbappe is only shining because his teammates are at a lower level. The Parisian sensation scored 39 goals in 46 games across all competitions, while also recording 26 assists.
The man many believed should have won the Ballon d’Or last year and the year before (when the awards were postponed). But he appears to have been let down by his Bayern teammates – even though team performances aren’t being taken into account. Lewandowski kept his excellent form going throughout the season, scoring 50 goals in 46 games for Bayern, including 35 in 34 matches in the Bundesliga to help the Bavarian giants with a 10th league title on the bounce.