He beat them in the voting to win one of the most prestigious player award in men’s football. He was pivotal as Real Madrid won La Liga and the UEFA Champions League.
The young trio of Kylian Mbappe, Vinicius Jr. and Erling Haaland all appeared in the top 10.
“There was a difficult period where I wasn’t in the French team but I never stopped working hard or gave up,” Benzema said on stage.
“Really proud of my journey here. It wasn’t easy, it was difficult. To be here today for the first time, I am happy, pleased for my work and want to keep going.
“I want to thank all my team-mates at Real Madrid and France and my coach and the Real Madrid president who is here this evening and also the support of Jean-Michel Aulas [Lyon president].
“There are a lot of people to thank. It is an individual prize but still a collective one because of everyone who played a role in it.”
He said: “Age is just a number for me, people play until their later years now and I still have this burning desire. It is this drive that has kept me going and never allowed me to let up. It kept this dream alive and was the fire behind me. I just want to make the most if it.”
His performances in the Champions League received widespread praise.
Rio Ferdinand, a BT Sport pundit, said after Real Madrid’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool in the Champions League final in Paris: “I think the argument is over for the Ballon d’Or. “If Karim Benzema does not get his hands on the Ballon d’Or then it will be a travesty.”