Benzema Pulls Away From Pack
Real Madrid’s triumph over Liverpool in the Champions League a couple of weekends ago marked the end of the 2021-22 men’s club soccer season. That means it’s time to take a closer look at the Ballon d’Or odds and the leading candidates for soccer’s most prestigious individual award. Karim Benzema, with his clutch performances this season, has nearly made it a one-man race.
Change in Ballon d’Or Timeline
Usually, the Ballon d’Or is awarded on the basis of performances throughout the calendar year, however, the award will now be given out based on August-July instead of January-December. So, anything from August 2021-July 2022 is fair game for the voting process. Crucially, December’s World Cup will be included in next year’s awards.
France Football has announced the Ballon d’Or will now be given to the best player over a standard European season rather than during a calendar year.
The 2021-22 campaign will end with the 2022 Women’s Euros, and the 2022 World Cup will be included in the 2022-23 awards. pic.twitter.com/tk7z7zuqDW
— B/R Football (@brfootball) March 11, 2022
The voting is done by 180 journalists who rank their top-five soccer players from a 30-man shortlist. Five points are awarded to the player who is first on their ballot, four points are given to second, three to third, and so on. They are supposed to vote on the basis of individual performances, with team trophies secondary. Whichever player receives the most points will be named the Ballon d’Or winner at a ceremony in October. Now, let’s look at the Ballon d’Or favorites.
Benzema and the Liverpool Duo
Prior to the Champions League final, the Ballon d’Or odds priced Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema at -225. While Benzema didn’t score in Real Madrid’s Champions League final victory, he did finish as the competition’s top scorer. That apparently holds a lot of weight, as Benzema is now listed at an incredible -1000 to win and has completely pulled away from the pack.
This season he finished with 44 goals and 14 assists and won the Golden Boot in both the Champions League and La Liga. He also won La Liga, the Spanish Supercup, and the Champions League. It surely doesn’t seem like any other player can hold a candle to that this season.
Mo Salah and Sadio Mané are next on the Ballon d’Or odds board at +1000 and +1200, respectively. Before the UCL final, they were listed at +700 and +1000 but neither failed to make a huge impact on the game. Salah did win a share of the Premier League’s golden boot and had the most assists as well. As much as it’s supposed to be an individual award, one can’t help but think he might be the favorite if Liverpool pulled off the quadruple.
Instead, Liverpool missed out on Premier League and Champions League titles in consecutive weeks. Now, him and Mané have longer odds to win the award. Mané did star as Senegal won their first-ever African Cup of Nations in February but his individual stats aren’t necessarily eye-popping.
Mbappé was by far their most valuable player. He won the Golden Boot for the fourth season running and registered the most assists.
Lionel Messi has won seven Ballon d’Or, which is the most in history. He controversially won the award last year over Robert Lewandowski. Messi is sitting at +2500 to repeat but he had one of his worst seasons, by his lofty standards. Messi did become more of a distributor with PSG this season but he managed just six Ligue 1 goals.
Speaking of Lewandowski, it looks unlikely he’ll finally get the recognition he deserves. If 41 goals in the 2020-21 Bundesliga season didn’t do it for him last year, it’s doubtful 35 will either. Lewandowski is listed at +3300 and he’s coming off a season in which he won the Bundesliga Golden Boot and finished behind only Benzema for the Champions League Golden Boot. He had a better goal-per-minute ratio than Benzema in the competition but he’s likely to be overlooked once again.
If Kevin de Bruyne’s Man City would have held on in the Champions League semifinals vs. Real Madrid, this odds board may have looked a fair bit different. Man City instead blew a two-goal lead and De Bruyne has the same long odds to win as Lewandowski. De Bruyne won the Premier League Player of the Season Award and his Man City side won a second consecutive EPL title.Follow us on Twitter