Lionel Messi of PSG has backed Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema to win this year’s Ballon D’Or after an incredible season, saying there’s “no doubt” he deserves it.
Lionel Messi, who has won the prestigious accolade seven times as the best player in the world, was unimportant when PSG were ousted from the Champions League in the round of 16 this year by Real Madrid, after Benzema scored a hattrick in the second half of the return leg.
Before Madrid overcame Liverpool 1-0 in the final on Saturday, Benzema scored four goals against Chelsea in the quarterfinals and three against Manchester City in the semifinals — including the game-winning penalty in extra time of the second leg. Benzema was also the top scorer in the Spanish league, helping Madrid to a resounding victory.
“There’s no doubt, its very clear that Benzema had a spectacular year,” Messi said in an interview with Argentine TV channel TyC Sports when asked if Benzema should get the prestigious award. “I think there is no doubt this year.”
Benzema scored 44 goals in 46 games for Real Madrid this season, tying Ral González for the club’s second-highest goalscorer with 323 goals. Cristiano Ronaldo remains the club’s all-time highest goal scorer with 451 goals to his name.
While Madrid defeated four European giants en route to winning the Champions League, Messi was not satisfied with the team’s style of play. Madrid needed dramatic comebacks against PSG and Man City, and Benzema was instrumental in each of them.
“Out of the blue they score against you, and the match changes automatically,” Messi said about this Madrid team. “Madrid was not the best team in this Champions League, there were better teams.”
Messi, 34, is training with Argentina in Bilbao ahead of Wednesday’s “Finalissima,” a friendly between the Copa America winners and European champion Italy.
Messi could face Benzema again in this year’s World Cup in Qatar, as both Argentina and France are strong contenders, but he insists that defending champion France should be regarded the favorite.
“France is an impressive team, (four years) ago we said they could be candidates and they ended as winners. I believe the hit they took at the Euros (being eliminated by Switzerland) made them stronger,” Messi said. “(Argentina) can fight anyone and will make it hard for any rival. That doesn’t mean we are the favorites to be world champions or any of that. It means we will fight against anyone.”