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Karim Benzema has been in fantastic form this season with 39 goals in 40 appearances in all competitions. He scored hat-tricks in the last 16 and quarter-finals of the Champions League to help Real Madrid progress and will be hoping to find the net again in the semi-finals against Manchester City. Ilkay Gundogan believes the France striker is a strong contender for the Ballon d’Or.


Ilkay Gundogan has backed Karim Benzema to win the Ballon d’or ahead of Manchester City’s Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.
Benzema has been in terrific form this season, scoring 39 goals and grabbing 13 assists from 40 appearances in all competitions.
He also scored hat-tricks in both the last 16 and quarter-finals of the Champions League to secure Real’s progress past Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.
“Right now, for me, Benzema is, along with [Robert] Lewandowski, the best striker in the world,” Gundogan told RT1.
“He’s good with both feet, good in the air…I think he was underrated in the past and now he is proving his critics were wrong.
“For a long time he was in Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow, especially in the press, but now he’s getting the attention and credit he deserves. His achievements speak for themselves. Benzema has everything it takes to win the Ballon d’Or.”
Benzema joined Real from Lyon in 2009 and at the age of 34 is enjoying arguably his best-ever season.
He finished fourth in last year’s Ballon d’Or voting with 239 points, well behind Lionel Messi, who won his seventh trophy with 613 points.
However, his chances of scooping the award in 2022 might have been improved by a change of criteria which means players will now be judged over the course of a typical club season rather than a calendar year.
“He’s better every day, like wine,” Real head coach Carlo Ancelotti said of Benzema after his hat-trick against Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
“Every day he shows more leadership, he feels more important for this team and this squad. That’s what makes the difference in him. He has a lot more personality.”
Manchester City midfielder Rodri has also warned about the threat of Benzema ahead of the first leg against Real at the Etihad on Tuesday.
“He is in the best moment of his career,” Rodri said after City’s 5-1 victory over Watford on Saturday.
“He understands every part of the game and is scoring goals, important goals.
“This guy is amazing in every game and he not only scores goals but makes his team feel comfortable with the ball and as Ancelotti says he is the modern striker in football so we have to be aware of him and all of Real Madrid.
“I played against him for a few years and he is a great player but not only him, in terms of quality they always have that.”
Manchester City beat Real’s city rivals Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals and are aiming to win the Champions League for the first time.
Real have won the competition a record 13 times, including three in a row from 2016 to 2018.
La bagarre générale entre les joueurs de Manchester City et de l'Atlético de Madrid lors du quart de finale retour
“This is a team that of course have the experience of the competition and wait for their opportunity,” Rodri added.
“This is the best thing about them. They are not consistent over 90 minutes but are always dangerous. We have to be aware. The first game is here at home so we have to do our best.
Real need just one point from their last five games in La Liga to secure the title after Barcelona’s shock home loss to Rayo Vallecano on Sunday. If they do wrap up the league and win the Champions League that is likely to add to Benzema’s cause to lift the Ballon d’Or in October.
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will take place after the presentation of this year’s Ballon d’Or, meaning any exploits in that tournament will be judged for the following year.

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