Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema has been named the 2021-22 UEFA Men’s Player of the Year, beating team-mate Thibaut Courtois and Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne to the gong.
The award was announced during the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League group stage draw in Istanbul.
The France international solidified his status as the frontrunner for this year’s Ballon d’Or with victory over the pair, with the award bestowed following the Champions League group-stage draw in Istanbul on Thursday.
Benzema, top scorer in both the Champions League and LaLiga last term as he guided Madrid to a double, netted 44 goals in 46 games across all competitions.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti also was feted at the ceremony, beating Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp to be awarded the UEFA Men’s Coach of the Year Award.
But the headline prize was that handed out to Benzema, who will now be targeting the most notable individual prize in football.
“I’m really happy,” he said as he collected his award. “It’s the first time I’ve won this trophy but for me the most important thing is to win trophies with the team.
“Ancelotti is the best coach in the world, he gets it right with every player, he gives us confidence and he tells you what to do before every match.”
Benzema scored 27 goals in 32 games as Madrid won LaLiga, and he also netted 15 in 12 Champions League outings en route to Los Blancos lifting their 14th European crown in Paris in May.
This year’s Ballon d’Or winner is due to be confirmed on October 17, with the mid-season World Cup resulting in an early announcement.