Karim Benzema won his fifth Champions League with Real Madrid after beating Liverpool (Photo: Getty)

Lionel Messi has named Karim Benzema as his pick to win the 2022 Ballon d’Or, following Real Madrid’s Champions League victory.

Benzema capped off the best season of his career by winning his fifth Champions League medal after Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 in Saturday’s final in Paris.

He finished as the competition’s top scorer with 15 goals, and also won the Pichichi (La Liga golden boot) after netting 27 times in Los Blancos’ title-winning campaign.

Even before the final, the French international was a favourite for the Ballon d’Or, the prestigious trophy awarded to the best footballer of the year, and the 34-year-old is almost certain to win now.

That is a view shared by Messi, who told TyC Sports: ‘I think there are no doubts this year.

Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d’Or seven times most recently in 2021 (Photo: Getty)

‘It is very clear that Benzema had a spectacular year and ended up consecrating himself with the Champions League, being essential from the last 16 onwards in all the games.’

It may surprise some to see Messi, who has won a record seven Ballon d’Ors, pick Benzema, given the former’s close relationship to Madrid’s arch-rivals Barcelona, but his reasonings are more than justifiable.

At numerous times during the knockout stages, Benzema was on hand to save his side from elimination, netting hattricks against PSG in the round of 16 and Chelsea in the quarter-finals, before scoring the decisive penalty against Manchester City in the semi-finals.

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A nine-time nominee, Benzema has never won the Ballon d’Or, coming closest last year as he finished fourth behind Messi, Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski and Chelsea midfielder Jorginho.

Despite his incredible goal-scoring heroics over the past decade and before, he, like many others, has been often overshadowed by then-Real teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, with the Portuguese forward or Messi winning the award in every year since 2008, with the exception of Luka Modric’s triumph in 2018.

The 2022 Ballon d’Or ceremony will be held at the end of the year, where Benzema’s main competition is likely to be Liverpool wingers Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

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