Buenos Aires ( Associated Press) – There is no doubt that Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema deserves to win his first Ballon d’Or award this year, according to Lionel Messi.
Messi has won a record seven Ballon d’Or awards as the best player in the world, but this year’s Champions League round of 16 saw Madrid knock out his new club Paris Saint-Germain – with Benzema scoring a hat-trick in the second. After half of the return leg.
Benzema scored four goals against Chelsea in the quarter-finals and three against Manchester City in the semi-finals – including a decisive penalty in second-leg extra time – before Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 in the final on Saturday. Benzema was also the top scorer in the Spanish league as Madrid won the title in dominant fashion.
“No doubt, it is very clear that Benzema had a wonderful year,” Messi said in an interview to Argentine TV channel TYC Sports should Benzema receive the coveted award. “I think there’s no doubt about it this year.”
Overall, Benzema has scored 44 goals in 46 appearances with his club this season, and equals Madrid great Ral González as the club’s second-highest scorer with 323 goals. Cristiano Ronaldo leads that tally with 451.
While Madrid overcame a quartet of European giants on their way to the Champions League title, Messi was not overly impressed by the team’s style of play. Madrid needed a big comeback against both PSG and Man City with Benzema to thank both times.
Of this Madrid team, Messi said, “They score against you and the match turns automatically.” “Madrid was not the best team in this Champions League, there were better teams.”
Messi, 34, is training with Argentina in Bilbao for the “Finalissima” – a friendly between Copa America winners and European champions Italy – on Wednesday.
Messi could go up against Benzema again at this year’s World Cup in Qatar – both Argentina and France are among the main contenders – but insisted defending champions France should be considered favourites.
“France are an impressive team, (four years ago) we said they could be the candidates and they finished as winners. I believe the hit they took at Euro (to be eliminated by Switzerland), He made them stronger,” Messi said. Anybody. It means we will fight against anybody.”
More Associated Press Soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports