After so many years playing second fiddle to Cristiano Ronaldo in Real Madrid's attack, Karim Benzema has solidified his own legend in recent times. Indeed, over the past eight months or so, the France forward has been a living, breathing highlight reel.
Benzema has treated us to a glut of GIF-able moments, often on the grandest stage, positioning himself as the undisputed favourite to clinch his first ever Ballon d'Or in October.
It is only a matter of time until he gets his hands on the trophy, and here are a few of the reasons why we are so sure that 'King Karim' deserves to be crowned the best player in the world...
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Goals, goals and more goals!
A key ingredient of any Ballon d'Or-winning campaign is ridiculous numbers – and Benzema's are outstanding.
Last season, the Frenchman managed a frankly absurd 44 goals and 15 assists in 46 club appearances. Those goal involvements were spread nicely throughout the campaign too, giving Benzema a strong case for being Europe's best striker in 2022.
Benzema 3-1 PSG
Benzema has bailed Madrid out of jail many times in recent years, but perhaps his greatest act of escapology came against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last season.
A goal down from the first leg and also a goal behind on the night, it look like Los Blancos would be crashing out of Europe at the last-16 stage. However, Benzema had other ideas.
With little over half an hour left to play, he turned in Vinicius Junior's cutback and, 15 minutes later, he levelled up the scores on aggregate with a deflected finish following great work from Luka Modric.
He wasn't done there either. Before we had time to catch our breath, Marquinhos cleared a ball right into Benzema's path – and it was only ever going to end up in the back of the net.
A true leader's performance.
The king of Stamford Bridge
After single-handedly dragging Real into the Champions League quarter-finals, Benzema was in the mood to turn heads again at Stamford Bridge.
It did not take long for the fireworks to start, with the Frenchman meeting Vinicius Junior's cross with a bullet header that shot past Edouard Mendy at the front post.
Benzema nodded home another stunner a few minutes later, powering Luka Modric's deep cross back where it came from to leave the Chelsea keeper with no chance.
Mendy could have prevented Benzema's hat-trick strike, though, with the Senegal international under-hitting a pass and presenting him with the simplest of chances.
Outsmarting Ederson at the Etihad
A Panenka? In the Champions League semi-final? Against Ederson? Yes, this really did happen!
Benzema's outrageous spot-kick put the perfect seal on a Champions League classic, cutting Man City's lead to just one heading into the second leg.
It took guts too, with Benzema having already missed four penalties during the 2021-22 campaign.
The psychological blow this dealt City for the return game was vital, as it meant Benzema & Co. fully believed that they could turn the tie around back at the Bernabeu.
Watch out, Cristiano!
Another key milestone for Benzema in 2022 was overtaking Raul as Real's second all-time top goalscorer.
He did it in some style too, netting the record-breaking strike during his side's UEFA Super Cup triumph over Eintracht Frankfurt.
Next in Benzema's crosshairs is Cristiano Ronaldo. He is just 126 goals behind heading into the 2022-23 season, so we fully expect him to at least draw level by the summer...
Real were lost without him
If it wasn't glaringly obvious already, Real's record without Benzema in the second half of the 2021-22 season drove home just how pivotal the striker is to his team.
In eight games without the forward, Carlo Ancelotti's side won just three. They were on the receiving end of some pretty dismal results without Benzema too.
Most painful of all was a 4-0 Clasico defeat at the hands of Barcelona, but crashing out of the Copa del Rey at the quarter-final stage to Athletic Club was also dire.
As Joni Mitchell once sang, you don't know what you've got til' it's gone.
It is not all about individual performances. Any strong Ballon d'Or candidate also needs to have got their hands on some team prizes during the calendar year.
Benzema clinched four trophies in 2022: the Supercopa, La Liga, the Champions League and, most recently, the UEFA Super Cup.
So, yeah, he knows a thing or two about polishing silverware.
- Getty Images
His other rivals are all missing something...
Although Benzema is the runaway favourite this year, he is not without his pretenders to the throne. Fortunately for him, there are pretty convincing arguments against most of his main challengers.
Kylian Mbappe's numbers are strong, as are Robert Lewandowski's, but a lack of trophies weakens each player's case significantly.
Kevin De Bruyne has been talismanic at times, but has not produced anywhere near the same amount of statement performances as Benzema.
Meanwhile, Mohamed Salah slowed down significantly after a lightning start to the 2021-22 campaign.
AFCON winner Sadio Mane is Benzema's biggest threat, but Liverpool's failure to lift either the Premier League or the Champions League mean even he surely cannot prevent the veteran's maiden Ballon d'Or triumph.
Messi & Ronaldo? Never heard of them!
By their own impossibly high standards, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have endured frustrating years.
Messi managed just five Ligue 1 goals in the second half of the 2021-22 season, with PSG's early Champions League exit and failure to win the Coupe de France meaning an eighth Ballon d'Or is not a realistic possibility for the Argentine.
Five-time winner Ronaldo does not have a hope either. He may have scored 24 times for Manchester United last season but his role in the club's worst-ever Premier League campaign came under intense scrutiny.
With the usual two frontrunners out of contention, then, the stage is set for Benzema to finally be recognised as the No.1 player on the planet.