How Karim Benzema Became Footballer of the Year

If you don’t know already, France & Real Madrid player Karim Benzema (or KB9) has just won the Ballon d’Or, which is the Footballer of the Year award. Those who know their football will probably say this doesn’t come as a surprise, but for a 34-year-old guy whose name isn’t Ronaldo or Messi, it’s a testament to KB9’s sheer hard work, persistence, and patience combined with his undeniable talent.

Even so, Frederic Rigolet, Benzema’s first coach said Karim was ahead of his peers as a child, but he would never have imagined him becoming a Ballon d’Or winner. What Rigolet did say, however, was that Benzema was always with a ball. If not at training, he would be hitting the ball against the wall or juggling or perfecting his dribbling for hours by himself until someone would beg him to stop and watch TV instead.

At 14, most coaches would’ve said Benzema would be nothing more than a recreational footballer. In fact, his friends remember Benzema as a skinny, shy teenager who lacked confidence. Imagine that!

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When Benzema turned 16, it seemed like the penny dropped. He came back from the offseason stronger and faster than ever before. His teammates & opponents couldn’t believe it was the same guy! By the time he was 17, he had won the U17 European Championship with France and been promoted from the academy to Lyon’s senior team. Over the years, his performances were so good that Sir Alex Ferguson even went to Karim’s home to meet his parents and try and sign him for Manchester United!

As fate would have it, KB9 moved to Real Madrid in 2009. In fact, he was unveiled to the Madrid fans on the same day at Cristiano Ronaldo, so you can imagine how much of a footnote his arrival was at the time. Nonetheless, despite many off-field distractions including encounters with the police, KB9 fed off CR7’s discipline, determination and dedication to develop a sharper focus to his life. And the results are there for all to see. In fact, of Ronaldo’s 450 goals for Madrid, Benzema has assisted 47 of them – more than anybody else!

After Ronaldo left Real Madrid, KB9 established himself as the main man and led them to 5 Champions League trophies. Today, only Ronaldo has scored more goals for Real Madrid than Benzema – and that’s despite Benzema not taking penalties for 7 years!

All told, winning a Ballon d’Or at 34 may be a little late. But for someone who was born in a tough Lyon suburb, has battled huge odds, been written off as a teenager and been under appreciated for most of his career, it is finally Karim Benzema’s time to shine.

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