Former France international Mathieu Valbuena has thrown his weight behind Karim Benzema’s Ballon d’Or charge after the French striker’s incredible year.
Valbuena and Benzema were close friends in the France national team until a scandal involving a sex tape with Valbuena in it rocked the boat of their relationship. Benzema was alleged to have attempted to blackmail Valbuena and that led to the 34-year-old being ostracised for five years from the France national team.
Benzema was found guilty of blackmail in the sex tape scandal in October 2021 and the court slammed him with a €75,000 fine and a suspended prison sentence. The striker appealed after the judgment but last week, he dropped his appeal, citing mental exhaustion from the process.
Valbuena told RMC Sport that he had moved on from the issue since the judgement has been passed. “I don’t hold a grudge at all and I always said what I had to say,” he said. “It was a difficult time, but one from which I was able to recover. Now everyone goes their own way.”
The issue has also not clouded the attacking midfielder’s judgement as he acknowledged his former colleague’s strides in European football this year. The 2021/22 season saw Benzema at his best as he led Real Madrid to three titles including record-extending LaLiga and UEFA Champions League titles, as well as the Supercopa de Espana.
The Olympique Lyonnais youth product scored 44 goals in all competitions to help the club secure those three titles, while also scoring in the final of the UEFA Nations League to make France the second winner of the new competition on his return to the national team.
Valbuena told RMC Sport when asked about Benzema’s Ballon d’Or chances: “It would be dishonest to say that Benzema does not deserve the Ballon d’Or. Yes, he deserves it. I can speak objectively on a sporting level and I can do it happily. There is no problem.”
Valbuena’s comments come after Messi anointed Benzema for the prestigious award recently. “I think there are no doubts Benzema should win Ballon d’Or,” Messi told TyC Sports while on international duty with Argentina. “It is very clear that Benzema had a spectacular year and ended up elevating himself with the Champions League, being essential from the last 16 onwards in all the games. I think there are no doubts this year.”
Benzema was happy to have received such high praise from the man who has won the most Ballons d’Or in history. “I heard the words from Messi and they made me very happy, very content that they come from a player like him,” he said a few days after Messi’s comments. “They give me motivation to do more things.”
Benzema will also find his former colleague’s words soothing and can now confidently look forward to the awards ceremony in January 2023.