Five strikers better than Benzema who never won the Ballon d'Or

FT Desk
FT Desk
  • 17 Oct 2022 21:27 BST
  • 5 min read
Karim Benzema: better the devil you know?

Karim Benzema won this year's Ballon d'Or, but better strikers than the Real Madrid man have missed out before now…

Not that Benzema is a bad player - far from it! The Frenchman scored 44 goals in 46 games in all competitions last season - contributing 15 assists - as Real were crowned Spanish and European champions.

But it could be argued that he is lucky that Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are no longer in the running for France Football's individual prize, which has been running in one form or the other since 1956.

Football Transfers looks at some of the best strikers to have missed out.

Thierry Henry

Widely regarded as the best striker ever to have graced the Premier League, Thierry Henry is seventh on the list of all-time top scorers in England's top-flight with his 175 goals for Arsenal, but unlike those above him, also added 80 assists across his seven seasons between 1999 and 2007.

Arsenal's 'Invincibles' season was thanks in no small part to Henry, who hit a league-high 30 goals as the Gunners roared to the title undefeated in 2003/04. A quarter-final loss to Chelsea in that season's Champions League didn't help, though, and the award went to AC Milan's Andriy Shevchenko - even if Jose Mourinho's Porto were crowned European champions that year.

Robert Lewandowski

Bayern Munich completed the international sextuple of Bundesliga, DFB Cup, DFL Supercup, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup under Hansi Flick in 2020, and Robert Lewandowski was the top scorer in every single competition.

The Pole plundered 55 goals from 47 games in all competitions for Bayern, adding 10 assists, but the award was later cancelled with the COVID-19 pandemic raging. Lionel Messi, the record seven-time winner of the award, later told Lewy: "You deserve your Ballon d'Or. Last year everyone agreed that you were the winner."

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez is desperately unlucky that his prime coincided with Messi's and Ronaldo's. Alongside Messi - and indeed Neymar - Suarez was part of the feared 'MNM' front three at Barcelona which terrorised opposition defences between 2014 and 2017.

His best Barca season was 2015/16, when he contributed 40 goals and 18 assists as the Blaugrana won that season's La Liga. Ronaldo had five less strikes and seven fewer provisions, but Real won that season's Champions League and Portugal Euro 2016, and Suarez was denied.

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar at Barcelona

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan, one the few non-Brazilians in word football who gets away with being known mononymously, has scored more than 500 club goals across four decades of football, playing for giants of the world game like Juventus, both Milans, Barcelona, PSG and Man Utd.

But like Suarez, his prime fell in the midst of the Messi/Ronaldo era. He did at least win the FIFA Puskas Award for the best goal scored in world football in 2013 - an audacious overhead-kick from 30 yards out which looped over Joe Hart as Sweden beat England 4-2 in a friendly.

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney's story isn't so different. Also in his peak years at the same time as Messi and Ronaldo, the Liverpool-born forward concluded his playing career in 2021 as the all-time top scorer for both Manchester United and England.

His best ever season for United in terms of output was 2011/12, when he scored 34 and assisted nine in 43 games in all competitions, but he perhaps had a stronger argument for individual recognition in 2007/8 when United won the continental double. Unfortunately for Rooney, Ronaldo had 42 goals to his 18 that campaign and won the first of his five Ballons d'Or.