Manchester City star Ilkay Gundogan has backed Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema for the Ballon d’Or after the Frenchman’s terrific run of form this season.

Speaking to Sport1 (h/t AS), Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan lavished praise on Karim Benzema ahead of the Cityzens’ UEFA Champions League semifinal clash against Real Madrid this week.

Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City will face off against Real Madrid in the penultimate stages of the Champions League. The first leg of this heavyweight semifinal tie goes down on Tuesday night at the Etihad Stadium.

Real Madrid have had to overcome difficult ties against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea to make it to the final four. And Karim Benzema has been the difference-maker for Los Blancos at every step of the way, putting on some scintillating displays to help his team progress this far.

The 34-year-old has plundered 39 goals and set up 13 more for his teammates from 40 games across all competitions in 2021/22. With Real Madrid poised to win La Liga and making it this far in Europe, calls for Benzema to win the Ballon d’Or this year have been picking up pace.

And Manchester City midfielder Gundogan has backed the French international to lift the coveted honour, claiming that Benzema has everything needed to win the Ballon d’Or this year.

“Right now, for me, Benzema is, along with Lewandowski, the best striker in the world. 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,” Gundogan said.

“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,” the German international added.

Indeed, for the longest part of his career at Real Madrid, Benzema had been overshadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo. However, the veteran striker has assumed the role of the talisman for the La Liga leaders since the Portuguese maverick’s departure and has performed sensationally over the past four years.

Real Madrid need just one point to win the La Liga title following Barcelona’s shock loss to Rayo Vallecano on Sunday night. Should they also go the distance in the Champions League under Carlo Ancelotti, Benzema would become the undisputed favourite to win the Ballon d’Or for the first time in his career.

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