Real Madrid's French striker Karim Benzema deserves to win the Ballon d'Or this year after helping to guide his team to the Champions League title, seven-times winner of the award Lionel Messi said on Monday.
Benzema had the best season of his 13-year career at Real, scoring 44 goals with 15 assists in all competitions as they won a LaLiga-Champions League double.
The 34-year-old topped the scoring charts in both competitions and netted hat-tricks against Paris St Germain and Chelsea in the knockout stages to secure Real's progress.
"There are no doubts, it's very clear that Benzema had a spectacular year and ended up victorious in the Champions League," PSG forward Messi said on Argentine television.
"He was fundamental in all the matches from the round of 16 onwards. I think there is no doubt this year."
The Ballon d'Or award for the best soccer player in the world will be presented on Oct. 17, with the nominees set to be revealed on Aug. 12.
The prestigious trophy will now be awarded on the basis of a regular season from August to July rather than a calendar year.
Real Madrid's 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 last 16, yet again preventing the French club from winning Europe's elite club competition for the first time.
"The Real Madrid game killed us, 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 credit away from Real Madrid, they weren't the best in this competition and yet they beat everyone."
Real Madrid's Benzema named Champions League Player of the Season
Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema has been named the Champions League Player of the Season after a stellar 2021-22 campaign where he finished as top scorer, UEFA said on Tuesday.
France international Benzema, 34, won the competition for the fifth time as Real beat Liverpool 1-0 in the final, having netted 15 goals in 12 games including hat-tricks against Paris St Germain and Chelsea in the knockout stages.
Benzema's team mate Vinicius Junior, who scored the only goal in the final in Paris, was named the tournament's Young Player of the Season.
The duo were also named in the Team of the Season alongside Real midfielder Luka Modric and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who played a starring role in the showdown at Stade de France.
Runners-up Liverpool were represented by defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson as well as midfielder Fabinho.
PSG striker Kylian Mbappe, Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger and Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne completed the lineup.
Team of the season:
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid)
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Andy Robertson (Liverpool)
Midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Fabinho (Liverpool), Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
Forwards: Kylian Mbappe (Paris St Germain), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid)
Di Maria to retire from international soccer after World Cup
Argentina's Angel Di Maria will retire from international football after this year’s World Cup in Qatar, the former Paris Saint Germain and Manchester United forward said on Monday.
“After this World Cup it will be time, there are a lot of lads who are at international level, who are getting better and little by little they are going to show that they are at this standard,” Di Maria told reporters ahead of Argentina’s match against Italy on Wednesday at Wembley.
Di Maria, 34, played 121 times for the national side and scored 24 goals.
He scored the winner last July as Argentina beat Brazil 1-0 to win the Copa America and lift their first major title in 28 years.
Di Maria will leave PSG this summer and he has yet to decide where he will play his club football next season but he said continuing at international level “would be a bit selfish after so many years and having achieved what I wanted to achieve.”
“After (Qatar) I’ll certainly be taking a step sideways.”