Lewandowski and Benzema both deserve Ballon d'Or – Upamecano weighs into debate

By Sports Desk October 19, 2021

Bayern Munich defender Dayot Upamecano said Robert Lewandowski and Real Madrid star Karim Benzema are both worthy of this year's Ballon d'Or.

Lewandowski and Benzema are among the nominees for football's most prestigious individual award – the 30-man shortlist will be whittled down to just three players.

Upamecano is team-mates with Lewandowski at Bundesliga champions Bayern, while he also plays alongside Benzema for World Cup and Nations League holders France.

Asked about Lewandowski and Benzema ahead of Bayern's Champions League fixture with Benfica on Wednesday, Upamecano replied: "Very good question!

"Lewandowski or Benzema, both of them deserve it [Ballon d'Or]. They are the two best strikers in the world. They prove it year after year.

"If Lewandowski wins, I would be very happy for him because he is my team-mate at Bayern. If Benzema wins, I also would be very happy for him."

Prior to Madrid's 5-0 rout of Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday, Benzema had been involved in more shot-ending sequences of play (76) than any other player in the Champions League.

In this same period, Lionel Messi (12) was the only player who had recorded more multi-shot involvements than Benzema (10), which captures all instances of sequences where a player is both involved in the build-up and takes the shot.

Meanwhile, Lewandowski has scored five goals in six Champions League appearances against Portuguese opponents, including three against Benfica – no player has ever scored more times against sides from Portugal in the competition.

Bayern are on a record unbeaten run of 19 matches away from home in Champions League (W15 D4), netting 54 goals during this streak since losing 3-0 at Paris Saint-Germain in September 2017. Over a third of their goals in this unbeaten run have been scored by their Lewandowski (19 – 35 per cent).

German giants Bayern's eight unbeaten matches against Benfica in the European Cup/Champions League (W5 D3) is the joint-most by a team against an opponent since the tournament began in 1955 – Bayern versus Spartak Moscow (W5 D3) and Barcelona versus Lyon (W5 D3) have also faced eight times without ever losing.

Since the start of last season, Bayern have averaged more goals (3.2) and have a higher expected goals tally (2.6) per game than any other team in the Champions League. Among teams involved in both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 tournaments, they also have the highest shot conversion rate in this period (18.3 per cent).

Related items

  • Ferdinand says Dortmund sensation Bellingham ahead of Lampard, Gerrard and Scholes at his age Ferdinand says Dortmund sensation Bellingham ahead of Lampard, Gerrard and Scholes at his age

    Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand declared "we haven't seen" a player like Jude Bellingham at his age after the Borussia Dortmund teenager helped guide his team to a 4-1 Champions League win at Sevilla.

    Bellingham scored one and assisted one as Dortmund eased to victory in Spain on Wednesday, with other goals coming from Raphael Guerreiro, Karim Adeyemi and Julian Brandt, while Youssef En-Nesyri pulled one back for the hosts.

    Bellingham, 19, who captained the Bundesliga side, became just the second teenager to score in the first three games of a Champions League campaign.

    The only other player to achieve that feat is his former BVB team-mate Erling Haaland, who did so with Salzburg in the 2019-20 season.

    Bellingham's tally of three Champions League goals this season is already a joint-high among English teenagers for a single campaign, along with Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, back in 2004-05.

    "What he's doing in his position at his age, we haven't seen," Ferdinand said, working as a pundit for BT Sport.

    "The best of our generation, [Frank] Lampard, [Steven] Gerrard, [Paul] Scholes, [Patrick] Vieira, Roy Keane, they weren't doing this.

    "He's still got to go on and prove it over a long period of time, but they weren't doing what he is doing right now [at the same age].

    "Influencing games at this level, captaining teams at this level, and mentally this kid's a beast."

    Fellow pundit and former Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole added: "Along with Erling Haaland, he's the best young player in the world, that's for sure.

    "I watched him play for England over the two [Nations League] games [against Italy and Germany] and he was our best player.

    "His dad I believe was a semi-pro footballer so he's obviously been guided right... When we grew up with Frank [Lampard] and his dad was a footballer obviously, a top footballer, and Frank had this maturity about him... Bellingham's got that as well, coupled with his undoubted God-given talent and his drive, he's unstoppable."

    Bellingham has long been linked with a move back to England, having joined Dortmund from Birmingham City in 2020, with Liverpool, Manchester City, United and Chelsea all reportedly keeping an eye on developments, along with LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

    "One thing that's for sure – whoever gets him – is [his] temperament," Ferdinand said.

    "When you're making big transfers and big moves like that in the spotlight, temperament is a key element you need to get right. This kid has already proved that it isn't a question mark."

  • Mourinho not motivated by breaking Sir Alex Ferguson's European wins record Mourinho not motivated by breaking Sir Alex Ferguson's European wins record

    Roma head coach Jose Mourinho says he is not thinking about breaking Sir Alex Ferguson's mark for winning the most European competition games during the Champions League era.

    Mourinho matched former Manchester United boss Ferguson with 106 victories in the Champions League and Europa League when he led Roma past HJK 2-1 in the Europa League last month.

    Only Carlo Ancelotti has more victories (120), with the era dating back to the Champions League's introduction in 1992.

    Ferguson and Mourinho had a tense rivalry during the Scot's latter days at Old Trafford, spawning from the Portuguese's breakout stint at Porto before regularly locking horns during his first spell at Chelsea.

    The Portuguese, who led the Italian club to Conference League glory last term, can surpass the former Manchester United manager when Roma take on Real Betis in the Europa League on Thursday.

    "It's not an extra motivation," Mourinho told reporters. "I am proud of the 106, and when the 107th arrives, either tomorrow or next week, I don't know, but when it comes it'll be a proud moment in my career.

    "I've always said that I'll think about this kind of thing when I finish my career. When I finish my career I have so many things to think about and remember, but at this moment, no.

    "Right now, the only thing that I am worried about is winning the next game, I'm always [thinking about] the next one and the next one is tomorrow.

    "As I said before, it will certainly be difficult, it is a high-level game, very high. But there's no such thing as winning one more game than Sir Alex.

    "This is not [why I want to win]. I want to win because we need to."

    Mourinho has won 85 Champions League games and 21 Europa League games, compared to Ferguson's 105 wins in Europe's top club competition along with one UEFA Cup (Europa League) victory.

    The former Inter, Real Madrid and Porto boss has two Champions League titles and two Europa League titles to his name, the latter with United. Ferguson, who retired in 2013, lifted the Champions League three times.

    Ancelotti, who has won the Champions League four times, moved to 103 Champions League wins with Madrid's 2-1 triumph over Shakhtar Donetsk, while he has 13 Europa League wins too.

  • Stefano Pioli laments costly errors in Milan's big loss at Stamford Bridge Stefano Pioli laments costly errors in Milan's big loss at Stamford Bridge

    Milan manager Stefano Pioli rued his side's poor play in Wednesday's 3-0 loss against Chelsea, saying the kind of mistakes made by his team "cannot be committed in the Champions League".

    The scoring was opened by Chelsea's big-money signing in the middle of defence, with Wesley Fofana scrapping home a loose ball in the box following a corner in the 24th minute.

    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Reece James then put the game to bed in the second half with goals in the 56th and 61st minutes respectively, and they were able to restrict the visiting Italians to one shot on target for the entire game.

    Pioli lamented his side's mistakes, saying teams in the Champions League will always punish you.

    "Errors? It is true that they cannot be committed in the Champions League," he told reporters. "We forced choices that weren't forced. We have lost our distance. It is a pity because, beyond their qualities, we could have done something more. 

    "It has nothing to do with little experience, it has nothing to do with those who were not there. We had to be more lucid, in ball recovery and aggression, we had to do better.

    "The second goal changed our attitude, our mentality. We weren't able to stay as a team as we usually do. At these levels you pay dearly for these things."

    He added on Sky Sports: "We had to do better. It's clear that when you make so many technical mistakes you allow opponents to put you in difficulty. 

    "I think the team was ready to play this type of match. There were spaces to be more precise and we gave too much field to the opponents. 

    "Defeats must help us grow. The locker room was rightly disappointed and angry, but this will give us great motivation and drive."

    This result leaves Chelsea and Milan both on four points in Group E, trailing undefeated Salzburg (one win, two draws).

    The defeat marked the sixth time in the competition that Milan have lost by three goals or more and the first time since March 2014 against Atletico Madrid.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.