Benzema, owner of the Ballon d’Or: the long-suffering story of the Frenchman with a strong character who played football so he wouldn’t be bullied

Karim Benzema met all predictions. the player of Real Madrid, who won the Champions League and LaLiga, took the Golden Ball for the first time in his career, to the best footballer of the 2021-’22 season.

The prestigious trophy awarded by the French magazine France Football reaches the hands of a French player after 24 years, when midfielder Zinedine Zidane, another player of Algerian origin, received it.

When the teenager Karim Benzema arrived at the Olympique de Lyon talent school, he already had a very clear idea of ​​what he wanted. A character formed from all the hardships that his family experienced, just like the millions of Africans who crossed the Mediterranean in search of a better life.

In the case of the 2022 Ballon d’Or, the story begins with his grandfather Da Lakehal, who traveled from the small town of Tighzert in Algeria, where his father Hafid was born, to settle with the whole family in Lyon, more precisely in Bron, on the outskirts of the industrial capital of France.

The Real Madrid star is the third of nine brothers. Since he was a child, on the neighborhood courts of his hometown of Bron, on the outskirts of Lyon, the Frenchman suffered from bullying due to his overweight and introverted personality. However, football was the way to overcome this early harassment after joining the modest SC Bron Terraillon team.

Precisely, at 9 years oldduring a game between his team and the boys from Olympique Lyonnais, Karim scored two goals. It was the moment when the team began its training in the youth teams, where he later stood out in the Sub 16 after scoring 38 goals in one season.

In the 2004-’05 season, El Gato was promoted to Lyon’s elite team and made his debut at the age of 17. It was at that moment that he starred in one of the anecdotes that describe the mettle of a player who has always had to row from below.

“When a youth came up, he had to give a speech at dinner or lunch, saying how old he was, where he came from and what he hoped to achieve with the Lyon shirt. Karim stood up and said: ‘I am here to take the attackers’ place away. I come with dedication, work and commitment to, surely, take your place”remembered his former partner Claudio Caçapa on ESPN Brazil.

A frontal and open comment that showed the confidence he had in his potential and enormous confidence. Against a squad full of stars, especially up front, with players like Florent Malouda, Sidney Govou, Sylvain Wiltord, Nilmar or Giovane Elber.

On July 1, 2009, the Frenchman signed a five-year contract with Real Madrid, a team that paid close to 40 million dollars at the time. An arrival that coincided with those of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká, which somewhat overshadowed the signing of the French attacker.

Since its premiere in the merengue box it was always from less to more. In his first season, 2009-’10 under the command of Chilean Manuel Pellegrini on the bench, the Frenchman only celebrated 9 times.

As for his nickname El Gato, it was José Mourinho who coined it in a press conference that took place in November 2010, prior to a Madrid match against Zaragoza. On that occasion he referred to the Frenchman with the following phrase: “If you don’t have a dog to go hunting and you have a cat, then you go with the cat, because you can’t go alone.”

In the last season as a merengue, the thirteenth with the white shirt, he found his best numbers with 44 wins in 46 games in all tournaments. With the white shirt, the striker won 23 titles, 10 national and 13 international.

Among their greatest collective achievements are the five Champions he won with the whites and four titles in LaLiga. Last season, he was chosen as the best player in Europe, he was the top scorer in LaLiga and the best played and goal in the Champions League.

In that scenario, his nomination for the best player on the planet was sung. Above all, when Lionel Messi -candidate for the award on 17 consecutive occasions- was not among the contenders.

But Benzema’s career has not been without problems. In 2006, he did not hesitate to explain his predilection for playing with the Gallic country with special reasons: “Algeria is the country of my parents, it is in the heart. But, sportingly speaking, it is true that I will play for the French national team”.

In 2010, el Gato was cited in the Zahia case, a case of pimping minors that caused a stir in the football world. With his blue teammate Franck Ribéry, they were accused of “soliciting minors for prostitution”but denied any involvement.

In November 2015, he was linked to an extortion case against his partner Mathieu Valbuena. Benzema was arrested in France accused of asking for a sum of money in exchange for not making public a sexual video where Valbuena appears. On December 4, it transpires that he will be vetoed by the French Football Federation from the national team.

A veto that lasted nearly five years and ended with the attacker’s nomination for Euro 2020, which was played a year later, due to the pandemic. Until today, with his national squad, the player has scored 37 goals and 97 games.