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Vinicius says Ballon d'Or must 'come naturally' as he tips Madrid team-mate Benzema for 2022 award

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Real Madrid and Brazil star Vinicius Junior does not believe he is in Ballon d'Or contention just yet, despite his terrific 2021-22 season.
FotMob - about 1 month ago

Vinicius Junior says he faces "a long road" to compete for the Ballon d'Or, as he tipped team-mate Karim Benzema to be named the world's best player this year.

Vinicius scored the only goal of the game as Real Madrid beat Liverpool to win their 14th Champions League title in May, having also played a key role in Los Blancos' dominant La Liga triumph.

The Brazilian scored 22 goals and recorded 16 assists in all competitions during the 2021-22 season, the latter figure representing a team-high total and one bettered only by Thomas Muller (22), Kylian Mbappe (21) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (18) among players in Europe's top five leagues.

Brazil's 2002 World Cup winner Rivaldo recently tipped Vinicius to challenge for the title of the world's best as early as next year, but the winger believes the examples set by fellow Madrid stars Benzema and Luka Modric show he has a long way to go.  

"It's [the Ballon d'Or] something that has to come naturally," Vinicius told YouTube channel Que Papinho. 

"Karim is 35 years old and now he will win it, Modric won it at 33 [in 2018].

"I have many years to evolve, a very long road for me if God wants me to win it one day."

Benzema's total of 59 goal contributions (44 goals, 15 assists) was only bettered by Mbappe (39 goals, 21 assists) in Europe's top five leagues last term, and Vinicius says his fellow Blancos attacker is the perfect role model. 

"I'm only 21 years old. I want to follow players like Karim, Modric, Marcelo, who won five Champions League titles," he added.

"I want to get as close to them as possible. That's when someone can call me that [a role model].

"Benzema repays the affection I have for him. He was a player I followed for a long time. I'm a big fan and being able to play with him today is incredible.

"He recently in an interview put me in his top five in the world, so I'm really happy."