AT 34, Karim Benzema could have been forgiven for thinking his chances of winning the Ballon d'Or were over.
But the Real Madrid star is expected to lift the trophy tonight after an incredible season with his club, as well as a return to international football with his country, France.
Benzema, who boasts an incredible car collection and a love of Bugatti motors, scored a staggering 15 goals in 12 games in the Champions League last campaign.
And he recorded his best ever LaLiga tally – notching 27 strikes in just 32 games.
A Ballon d'Or win would cap a remarkable journey for Benzema, after he was exiled from the national team and faced trial for his alleged part in blackmailing Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape.
And in stunning American Wag Jordan Ozuna, who used to work at fast food chain Hooters, he has found love off the pitch and is happy to share that with the world.
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Best ever season
Often overlooked and criticised, Benzema has scored 328 goals for Los Blancos – since signing for around £35million in 2009.
Before last season, he was an underrated cog in sides that won three LaLiga titles and four Champions League trophies.
However, he played second-fiddle to Cristiano Ronaldo – who was bought the same year from Man Utd.
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Unselfishly, Benzema admitted: "When Cristiano Ronaldo played for Real Madrid, he scored 50 to 60 goals a year.
"So, my moves were to give him an advantage on the field, generate spaces, because I exchanged the ball well in the opponent's area. He was much more effective than I was."
That all changed in 2018-19, when the Portuguese legend left for Juventus. Benzema was left as the main man, and how he thrived.
Across the previous four seasons, he's scored 131 goals in all competitions. While in this campaign he has five in 10 games.
He admitted his priorities changed after CR7 departed for Turin.
Benzema explained: “It’s been different for me since Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid.
“It’s true that I’ve scored many more goals, but when Cristiano was here, we had a different style of play, I was providing more assists.
He really helped me on and off the pitch.
“But at that time, I did know that I could do more and when he left, it was the time to change my game, change my ambitions and I am doing that well at the moment.”
But it hasn't always been plain-sailing in Benzema's career. Misdemeanours off the pitch threatened his reputation, and perhaps derailed it somewhat.
His international career suffered, certainly.
Slights of character began in 2010, when French TV channel M6 reportedthat four members of the French national team were being investigated for their roles as clients in a prostitute ring operated inside of a Paris nightclub, with some of the women allegedly being underage.
Benzema was one of those, along with Franck Ribéry, Sidney Govou, and Hatem Ben Arfa.
Benzema and Ribéry were acquitted by a judge because of lack of sufficient evidence that the pair knew the prostitutes were underaged. But, the young striker's card was marked.
In 2015, Benzema was arrested by police for his alleged part in blackmailing fellow France international player Mathieu Valbuena over the alleged recording of a sex-tape on a mobile phone.
Noel Le Graet, the president of the FFF, announced a suspension of the striker from the national team..
The case went to trial in 2021, and Benzema was found guilty of conspiring to blackmail Valbuena with the sex tape.
Benzema was handed a one-year suspended sentence and fined £75,000.
But, it was the cost of losing six years of his international career that hurt the most.
Since 2021, Didier Deschamps has reinstated Benzema back into the Les Bleus line-up.
And with 10 goals in his 16 games across the last year, it's the national side that seemingly lost out on his talents.
What better way for redemption to lead the French line in Qatar and win the World Cup.
Fiercely private off the pitch, practicing Muslim Benzema kept his love life out of the limelight during his epic rise.
He was married to Chloe De Launay, who is the mother of their two children Ibrahim and Melia.
But their romance was reportedly hit by controversy and alleged infidelity.
Benzema is now reportedly dating American model Jordan Ozuna.
The 32-year-old used to work as a Hooters waitress in Las Vegas but is now signed to several US-based modelling agencies.
And she seems to have encouraged him to open up more about his life.
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They both follow each other on Insta and have publicly shared heart emojis during exchanges, while she was said to be in Paris back in May to support Benzema crowned king of the Champions League.
Maybe she will be there to cheer him on winning the 2022 Ballon d'or at the Théâtre Châtelet in Paris tonight.
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