by Jeremy (Leadership)
Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema has been named as the Champions League player of the season.
The France international, 34, won the competition for a fifth time as Real beat Liverpool 1-0 in the final.
He scored 15 goals in 12 Champions League games and is a leading contender to win this year’s Ballon d’Or.
Benzema’s team-mate Vinicius Jr, who scored the only goal in the final, has been selected as the tournament’s young player of the season.
The 21-year-old scored four goals and made six assists in the 2021-22 campaign.
The pair are joined in the Champions League team of the season by Real midfielder Luka Modric and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who was man of the match in Paris.
Runners-up Liverpool also have four players included, with defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson and midfielder Fabinho featuring.
Meanwhile, Lionel Messi says there can be “no doubts” Karim Benzema will be a worthy Ballon d’Or winner after the Real Madrid star cemented his frontrunner status with Champions League glory.
The France international is the favourite to succeed Messi as the next recipient of the game’s most prestigious individual prize after inspiring his side to domestic and European success this term.
“I think there are no doubts,” Messi had said when asked if the Frenchman would be a fitting successor as the Ballon d’Or winner.
“It is very clear that Benzema has had a spectacular year and ended up consecrating himself with the UEFA Champions League, being fundamental from the round of 16 onwards in all the games. I think there are no doubts this year.”
Messi also reflected on his triumph in 2021, when he defended the crown he won in 2019 against Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.
That was after the award was cancelled for 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lewandowski would have been many people’s favourite in 2020 and went on to break Gerd Muller’s long-standing record of 40 Bundesliga goals in a single season the following year.
Yet he was forced to make do with second behind Messi after he helped Argentina to their first Copa America success in 28 years.
Messi acknowledged Lewandowski would have been a worthy winner in 2020, but on reflection feels he deserved the 2021 triumph he was awarded.
“What I said at that moment was from my heart and because I really felt that way,” Messi said, alluding to his comments at the 2021 Ballon d’Or ceremony.
“I said that he deserved the Ballon d’Or before, because the year before it had seemed to me that he had been the best.
“But the year that I won, he wasn’t the best. I just said that. But let him take it as he wants. Everyone says what they want and obviously he can express himself and say what he wants.
“Honestly, I don’t share what he said, but I didn’t give it much importance either. That’s it, he can say what he wants, I’m not interested.