Without Vinicius Jr., Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is not a lock to win the Ballon d’Or for the 2021/22 season.
I know that sounds like a strong statement, but it isn’t. It’s not that Benzema wouldn’t be capable of winning the honor without Vini. It’s just that, realistically, it would not happen.
Even after scoring over 40 goals, Benzema was still seen as being tied with two players with inferior statistics and resumes in Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane until Real Madrid neutralized them both in their victorious Champions League Final.
And then there were the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappe, who put up the kind of numbers that would have made them more formidable Ballon d’Or foes than the, quite frankly, overhyped Liverpool forward duo.
So it is then fair to say that without Vinicius Jr.’s breakout year, Benzema would have struggled to achieve the jaw-dropping numbers he reached – career-best numbers, which is saying something given the career he’s had thus far.
On top of that, Real Madrid would not have achieved anywhere near the team success without Vini’s breakout. Maybe they would have won LaLiga. But the Champions League? Never in a million years without Vini’s ball progression, chance-creation, and, of course, improved finishing.
Vinicius Jr. led Real in almost every major attacking stat in the Champions League
There is a narrative that exists and is true. It is the narrative that Benzema’s tough love, encouragement, and all-around play have helped Vini Jr. We know this is true because Vini did struggle a bit when Benzema was injured. He was isolated in these matches, such as against Barcelona in the second Clasico, whereas he was the star of the show in the first one.
But there is a reciprocal narrative that is just as true. That without Vinicius Jr., Benzema would not be the clear Ballon d’Or favorite, nor the score of 27 goals in LaLiga with a near-record 15 Champions League goals.
Vini Jr. had a team-high six assists in the Champions League. He also led the team with 2.5 dribbles completed per game, 2.4 key passes per game, and 1.9 fouls drawn per game. It was the same story in LaLiga, though Vini was tied with Benzema in key passes and second in assists.
Still, Vini was not far off from Benzema in terms of his overall impact on the team. What extra Benzema provided in terms of a difference in goals, Vini provided in progression.
The two went hand-in-hand. So when Benzema claims the Ballon d’Or that is so rightfully and obviously his, do not forget to point a finger in Vinicius Jr.’s direction for the assist. He helped bring the best out of Benz, just as much as the Frenchman aided him.
Karim Benzema helped Cristiano Ronaldo achieve unprecedented greatness at Real Madrid. And now Vini Jr. is doing the same for him. Football heritage.