Damilola Aina, Abuja

Daily Courier – Real Madrid’s France star Karim Benezema deserves to win the Ballon d’Or, according to seven-time laureate Lionel Messi.

Benzema was crucial in Madrid’s Champions League victory this season, culminating with a 1-0 win over Liverpool in Paris on Saturday.

Although he did not score in the final, Benzema’s back-to-back hat-tricks in the knock-out rounds, starting with a 17-minute treble against Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain to overturn a 2-0 aggregate deficit, were crucial to generating the momentum that swept the Spaniards to the title.

Benzema scored 44 goals and recorded 13 assists in all competitions as Real Madrid won a LaLiga-Champions League double.

“There’s no doubt, it’s very clear that Benzema has had a spectacular year and has ended it by winning the Champions League,” Messi told Argentine channel TyC Sports.

“He was crucial from the last-16 onwards in every match and I think there’s no doubt” that Benzema deserves to win the Ballon d’Or.

The Ballon d’Or award for the best football player in the world will be presented on Oct. 17, with the nominees set to be revealed on Aug. 12.

The trophy will now be awarded on the basis of a regular season from August to July rather than a calendar year.