Olivier Giroud etched his name into the France history books as he became Les Bleus' all-time top scorer after netting against Poland at the World Cup.

The Milan striker equalled Thierry Henry's 51-goal record with a brace in a 4-1 win over Australia in his nation's World Cup opener, leaving him one shy of the outright benchmark.

That made Giroud, aged 36 years and 53 days, the second-oldest player to score a double at the World Cup, after Roger Milla, who did so in 1990 for Cameroon aged 38.

Giroud claimed the record outright with the opening goal in the round-of-16 clash against Poland, latching onto Kylian Mbappe's pass to fire Les Bleus ahead.

The former Chelsea and Arsenal striker would likely have not started for Didier Deschamps' side if it had not been for pre-tournament injuries to Karim Benzema and Christopher Nkunku.

Instead, Giroud and Kylian Mbappe have been tasked with carrying the attacking burden as France aim to defend their World Cup crown.

Lionel Messi is rumoured to become the latest superstar to move to MLS, with the Times reporting that the Argentina forward will join Inter Miami. 

Messi is out of contract with Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season and has been continually linked with a return to Barcelona, having left the Blaugrana in 2021.

But Inter Miami are said to be "confident" the 35-year-old will sign following the conclusion of the World Cup in Qatar, where he has scored in both of Argentina's group stage matches, though he would not move until the conclusion of PSG's season.

Should the move materialise, Messi would join a host of big names to ply their trade in the United States. Here are some of the most notable examples.

David Beckham

The former England captain shocked the world when he swapped Real Madrid for LA Galaxy in 2007, though his blockbuster move certainly put MLS on the map.

Beckham made 118 appearances during his five-year spell with Galaxy, scoring 20 goals, while helping the franchise to successive MLS Cup triumphs in his final two seasons.

Thierry Henry

Arsenal and France's all-time leading scorer scored 52 goals in 135 games for the New York Red Bulls between 2010 and 2014, helping them win the 2013 Supporters' Shield and making four All-Star appearances.

Henry also coached Montreal Impact from 2019 to 2021, guiding them into the playoffs during his only full season in charge.

David Villa

Spain's all-time leading marksman became New York City's first signing when he joined from Atletico Madrid ahead of their debut MLS season in 2015.

A four-time All-Star, Villa would go on to score 80 goals in 126 appearances before departing for Japanese side Vissel Kobe at the end of the 2018 season.

Kaka

The former Ballon d'Or winner became Orlando City's first designated player when he agreed to join the new franchise in 2014.

Kaka played 78 times for City, scoring 25 goals, while he was an All-Star in each of his three seasons.

Andrea Pirlo

A multiple Scudetto winner with Milan and Juventus, Pirlo was unable to truly leave his mark on MLS during his stint with New York City.

Nevertheless, the former Italy midfielder did help the franchise reach the playoffs in 2016 and 2017, while racking up 62 appearances and netting once.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ibrahimovic certainly hit the ground running after switching Manchester United for LA Galaxy, scoring twice on his debut in a 4-3 win over rivals Los Angeles FC, including a 45-yard screamer.

That set the tone for a prolific two-year spell for the former Sweden international, who netted 53 times in 58 appearances before returning to Italy for a second stint at Milan.

Wayne Rooney

England's all-time leading scorer helped D.C. United reach the play-offs in his first season after joining from Everton in 2018, while he will always be remembered for his last-ditch tackle and cross-field assist to Luciano Acosta that sealed a dramatic 3-2 win over Orlando City.

Rooney scored 25 goals in 52 appearances for United and, following a spell at Derby County, he returned to the franchise as head coach in July. 

Gonzalo Higuain

A league title winner with Real Madrid and Juventus, Higuain swapped Italy for the States in September 2020.

Despite missing a penalty on his debut against Philadelphia Union, the former Argentina striker went on to score 29 goals in 70 appearances before retiring at the end of the 2022 MLS season.

Lionel Messi is rumoured to become the latest superstar to move to the MLS, with the Times reporting that the Argentina forward will join Inter Miami. 

Messi is out of contract with Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season and has been continually linked with a return to Barcelona, having left the Blaugrana in 2021.

But Inter Miami are said to be "confident" the 35-year-old will sign following the conclusion of the World Cup in Qatar, where he has scored in both of Argentina's group stage matches, though he would not move until the conclusion of PSG's season.

Should the move materialise, Messi would join a host of big names to ply their trade in the United States. Here are some of the most notable examples.

David Beckham

The former England captain shocked the world when he swapped Real Madrid for LA Galaxy in 2007, though his blockbuster move certainly put the MLS on the map.

Beckham made 118 appearances during his five-year spell with Galaxy, scoring 20 goals, while helping the franchise to successive MLS Cup triumph in his final two seasons.

Thierry Henry

Arsenal and France's all-time leading scorer scored 52 goals in 135 games for the New York Red Bulls between 2010 and 2014, helping them win the 2013 Supporters' Shield and making four All-Star appearances.

Henry also coached Montreal Impact from 2019 to 2021, guiding them into the playoffs during his only full season in charge.

David Villa

Spain's all-time leading marksman became New York City's first signing when he joined from Atletico Madrid ahead of their debut MLS season in 2015.

A four-time All-Star, Villa would go on to score 80 goals in 126 appearances before departing for Japanese side Vissel Kobe at the end of the 2018 season.

Kaka

The former Ballon d'Or winner became Orlando City's first designated player when he agreed to join the new franchise in 2014.

Kaka played 78 times for City, scoring 25 goals, while he was an All-Star in each of his three seasons.

Andrea Pirlo

A multiple Scudetto winner with Milan and Juventus, Pirlo was unable to truly leave his mark on the MLS during his stint with New York City.

Nevertheless, the former Italy midfielder did help the franchise reach the playoffs in 2016 and 2017, while racking up 62 appearances and netting once.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ibrahimovic certainly hit the ground running after switching Manchester United for LA Galaxy, scoring twice on his debut in a 4-3 win over rivals Los Angeles FC, including a 45-yard screamer.

That set the tone for a prolific two-year spell for the former Sweden international, who netted 53 times in 58 appearances before returning to Italy for a second stint at Milan.

Wayne Rooney

England's all-time leading scorer helped D.C. United reach the play-offs in his first season after joining from Everton in 2018, while he will always be remembered for his last-ditch tackle and cross-field assist to Luciano Acosta that sealed a dramatic 3-2 win over Orlando City.

Rooney scored 25 goals in 52 appearances for United and, following a spell at Derby County, he returned to the franchise as head coach in July. 

Gonzalo Higuain

A league title winner with Real Madrid and Juventus, Higuain swapped Italy for the States in September 2020.

Despite missing a penalty on his debut against Philadelphia Union, the former Argentina striker went on to score 29 goals in 70 appearances before retiring at the end of the 2022 MLS season.

Didier Deschamps has defended his decision to substitute Olivier Giroud in France's World Cup win over Australia, delaying his bid to become France's all-time leading goalscorer outright.

Giroud equalled Thierry Henry's record of 51 goals for France with a brace on Tuesday, helping Les Bleus fight back to post a 4-1 win in their Group D contest.

However, the striker was replaced by Marcus Thuram in the closing stages, meaning he will have to wait until Saturday's meeting with Denmark for another chance to seize the record for himself. 

Deschamps was defensive when asked why he withdrew Giroud in his post-match press conference, responding: "Would you like to take my place and be the coach? 

"Olivier Giroud did what he does best, he scored goals. You have to manage a lot of things as a coach.

"We have another match in four days and we'd already scored four goals, so sometimes it's good to give someone else a chance and give him a rest.

"You tend to talk about records a lot, he tends to focus on what he does on the pitch. 

"He was very effective tonight, which is great for him, he's useful with the way he links up with the other attackers in our team."

As well as claiming a slice of France history, Giroud – aged 36 years and 53 days – became the second-oldest player to score a World Cup brace, after Roger Milla did so twice at the 1990 tournament when 38 years old.

France initially looked unlikely to make a positive start to their World Cup defence, with Adrien Rabiot having to cancel out Craig Goodwin's opener before Giroud took centre stage.

Deschamps was pleased with Les Bleus' response to going behind after witnessing other sides fail to fight back in the tournament's opening round of fixtures.

"I think we began the match well, we linked up well in the first few minutes but we let in a goal which we should have avoided," Deschamps said.

"It was tough, but in the second half we showed a lot more confidence, we created a lot more chances and scored four goals, so of course that is good. We could have scored more, but it's a very good beginning.

"The first match is always vital, so I have to congratulate the team. We saw some earlier games where teams were unable to respond, but we did. We showed strength of character."

Tuesday began with one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history as Saudi Arabia beat Argentina 2-1, but Deschamps said that surprise result had no bearing on France's approach.

"The players saw that match, but you have to focus on the opponent that's in front of you," he added.

Olivier Giroud feels "blessed" to have matched Thierry Henry's France goalscoring record with a brace against Australia that marked his first World Cup goals since 2014.

Giroud was a key part of the France side that won the title at Russia 2018, but he failed to score across seven matches.

The Milan striker's only previous World Cup goal had been the opener in a group-stage rout of Switzerland eight years ago, a meagre return from 12 appearances in the competition.

But Giroud never doubted himself, insisting after Tuesday's double in a 4-1 win he had not received the same level of chances in 2018.

He accrued 1.7 expected goals from five shots at Al Janoub Stadium, having had chances worth just 1.2 xG across the entirety of the previous World Cup.

"Not really," Giroud replied when asked if he was relieved. "I just try to bring what I can do to the team.

"When I get the opportunity, I try to always put it in the back of the net. This time, I couldn't miss, because I received great balls.

"If you watch the World Cup 2018, I didn't get as many chances as I would hope. Those were different kinds of games. It's very good for confidence for the next stage."

Giroud's second goal from a Kylian Mbappe cross was his 51st for France, matching Henry's record return.

"I don't like to speak about myself," Giroud said. "I will say that we started the competition well. It was massively important to win this first game.

"We started the game in not the best way, but we've shown a great character and we bounced back straight away, which was very important.

"Personally, obviously, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be next to Titi Henry now."

He added to TF1: "It's a source of great pride, I don't intend to stop there. I hope to continue in the competition so that I can help the team achieve our goal."

Olivier Giroud equalled Thierry Henry's France goalscoring record as Les Bleus fought back to begin their World Cup defence with a 4-1 victory over Australia on Tuesday.

Having lost Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba and others to injury during a chaotic build-up to the tournament, France suffered another blow when Craig Goodwin fired Australia into an early lead.

But the holders responded well, with the impressive Adrien Rabiot recording a goal and an assist – the latter for Giroud – during a first-half turnaround.  

Kylian Mbappe then made the points safe with a fine glancing header before teeing up Giroud to nod home his landmark 51st goal as France took control of Group D.

Goodwin side-footed Mathew Leckie's cross into the roof of the net after nine minutes in a dream start for Australia but a quickfire France double turned the game around.

Rabiot contributed to both goals, nodding home Theo Hernandez's deep cross after 27 minutes before his cut-back allowed Giroud to tap in.

The end of an entertaining first half featured clear chances at both ends, with Mbappe firing over from close range before Jackson Irvine headed against the post.

Giroud went close to a spectacular second when he sent an acrobatic effort wide shortly after the break, while Antoine Griezmann saw a shot cleared off the goalline as France continued to press.

France finally had a deserved third goal after 68 minutes, with Mbappe diverting Ousmane Dembele's cross in off the post to clinch the win.

Mbappe sent in a fine cross for France's fourth just three minutes later, but the moment belonged to Giroud as he powered a header beyond Mathew Ryan to earn a slice of Les Bleus history.

What does it mean? Champions make strong start

France approached Tuesday's match looking to buck the recent trend of slow starts from World Cup holders – the reigning champions had only started with a win at three of the last 12 tournaments (D4 L5).

Given their chaotic preparations and Australia's early opener, Didier Deschamps may have been fearing the worst, but Les Bleus were ultimately good value for their win, which saw them take control of Group D following Denmark's draw with Tunisia.

Giroud matches Henry

Had Real Madrid's Ballon d'Or-winning forward Benzema been fit to feature against the Socceroos, Giroud would likely have been the player to miss out on a place in Deschamps' team.

However, Giroud – who played a key role in France's 2018 heroics in Russia – helped himself to a brace to draw level with Henry's tally of 51 goals for his country, hitting that number in eight fewer caps than the Arsenal great.

Rabiot takes centre stage

Injuries to Pogba and his 2018 World Cup-winning midfield partner N'Golo Kante opened the door for Rabiot to assume a central role in Qatar, and he did not let France down in their Group D opener.

Rabiot took the game by the scruff of the neck before the break, becoming the first France player to both score and assist a goal on his World Cup debut since Christophe Dugarry against South Africa in 1998

What's next?

France take on Denmark in their next Group D game on Saturday, while Australia face Tunisia on the same day.

Thierry Henry feels Juventus have issues "from top to bottom" and sacking Massimiliano Allegri will not change their fortunes.

A 4-3 defeat to Benfica on Tuesday saw Juve crash out of the Champions League, while they will exit European competition entirely if Maccabi Haifa better their result in the final round of group-stage matches.

The Bianconeri's loss in Lisbon was their third in five games across all competitions, with Allegri's side down in eighth in Serie A and already 10 points behind leaders Napoli.

Juve's first group-stage elimination in the Champions League since 2013-14 increased pressure on Allegri, but former Bianconeri striker Henry believes replacing the coach will not change their situation.

"I wouldn't go there. As you know, I'm on the other side of the line now, so it is very difficult to call out a manager," he told CBS Sports.

"I think there is a lot of problems from top to bottom; it is not only at the bottom and on the field where things are not going well.

"I said it when [Andrea] Pirlo left, I said it when [Maurizio] Sarri left, he is not a bad coach.

"What is going on behind closed doors, we don't know. It takes time sometimes. It's not that if you just bring in Allegri, it is going to work.

"Where are you going to go? What is going to be the plan? Who are you going to bring in? You need to let people work for a little while to make change, to change who is going to leave, who is going to come and play in this system.

"We've seen it with [Mikel] Arteta [at Arsenal]; it took him two years to put a decent team on the field, and people were having a go.

"Are you going to stay with the man or are you not? Think about it carefully. They thought that bringing him [Allegri] in, things were going to change, and it hasn't happened yet."

Thierry Henry has warned Kylian Mbappe that no player is bigger than the club, urging the Paris Paris Saint-Germain star to conform to tactical demands amid reports he may seek an exit.

World Cup-winning forward Mbappe signed a bumper three-year extension in Paris ahead of the 2022-23 season, seemingly ending speculation over a move to Real Madrid.

On Tuesday, however, PSG advisor Luis Campos was forced to address reports that Mbappe wants to leave in January, stating the France international has never expressed such intentions to the club.

The 23-year-old responded with a first-half penalty at the Parc des Princes against Benfica, becoming PSG's top scorer in the Champions League as he surpassed Edinson Cavani's 30-goal benchmark.

Reports suggest Mbappe has become unsettled for numerous reasons, including being unwilling to operate out wide, but Henry says his fellow Frenchman must play where he is instructed.

"Nobody likes to be exposed to what you are not good at," Henry said on CBS Sports. "You just don't like it. But there is something that is bigger than anything else and that is the club.

"Did they make him feel like the club was the most important thing or did they make him feel like he was more important than the club?

"I will use my own story. I didn't like to play out high and wide for Barcelona. I hated it, but I did it for the team.

"I didn't like it. After a hundred caps and I don't know how many goals I scored for France, I had to play on the left.

"I didn't hear anyone say, 'Oh, what a nice gesture!' to go on the left instead of players who had fewer goals and fewer caps.

"There is only one rule. If the boss asks you to do something, you do it; if it's good for the team. If it's bad for the team, I would get the argument."

PSG sit level on eight points with Benfica at the Group H summit after Joao Mario cancelled out Mbappe's opener with a spot-kick of his own, earning a point for Roger Schmidt's side.

Thierry Henry questioned why Barcelona were not awarded a penalty in their contentious 1-0 loss to Inter despite "20 billion cameras" spotting Denzel Dumfries' handball.

Inter claimed a valuable victory at San Siro in Tuesday's Champions League tie through Hakan Calhanoglu's brilliant first-half strike.

But Barca were left furious after a Pedri equaliser was ruled out by VAR for handball against Ansu Fati in the build-up, before having a late penalty call rejected.

A cross towards Fati was cut out by the hand of Dumfries, but Slovenian referee Slavko Vincic and his officials decided against awarding the visitors a stoppage-time penalty.

It is a decision that left Xavi furious, with the Barca boss already on a yellow card for protesting the disallowed goal, and one the Catalans will reportedly formally complain about.

Speaking alongside referee consultant Christina Unkel, who was trying to defend the decision, former Barcelona striker Henry ridiculed VAR's inability to spot the handball.

"[Dumfries] takes the ball away from Ansu Fati," he told CBS. "I usually never say anything about disallowed goals.

"But Christina, do you, the referees, have the right to sometimes say that you were wrong? Are you ever taught to say you were wrong?

"He was wrong, bye. There is nothing to explain. He was wrong. It happens. It happened to me, it happens to many people. He was wrong. 

"The guy in the truck [VAR official] didn't call the ref. I don't know what experience he has, but even my son could have seen there was a hand. 

"He would have seen it. He saw it, he even texted me to say, 'There's a hand'. You've got 20 billion cameras and you can't see it? Please! It happens but it was wrong."

The defeat could be damaging for Barca as they now trail second-placed Inter by three points at the halfway stage in Group C, with leaders Bayern Munich six points better off.

Xavi, who became the first Barca coach to lose his first three away Champions League games, was "outraged" by the display of the match officials.

"First they explain to us that Ansu handled but another team-mate scored, then with the other incident, it is not clear what happened," he said at his post-match press conference.

"It is my opinion. I would have liked to speak to the referee, because he did not blow the whistle. At the moment, I am outraged, it is an injustice and it makes no sense.

"Now we still have three finals left, we have already lost in Munich and we start again. But there is indignation.

"In general, it was a great injustice. The referee should give explanations, instead he goes away and nothing happens. He has to come here and explain."

Barcelona welcome Inter to Camp Nou next week before concluding their group-stage campaign with a home match against Bayern and a trip to bottom side Viktoria Plzen.

Harry Kane surpassed Thierry Henry to become the leading scorer in Premier League London derbies by converting a penalty against Arsenal on Saturday.

Tottenham striker Kane fired straight down the middle to equalise after Richarlison was upended by Gabriel Magalhaes 31 minutes in, scoring his 44th Premier League goal against a London rival.

The England captain moved one goal clear of Gunners legend Henry, and has now scored 14 Premier League goals against Arsenal – only against Leicester City (18) has he scored more in the competition.

Kane was already the highest-scoring player in Premier League North London Derbies, and has now converted seven penalties against the Gunners in league action.

Only Alan Shearer, who scored seven spot-kicks against Everton, has scored as many penalties against a single opponent in the history of the Premier League.

Meanwhile, Kane's goal also made him the first player to bring up a century of away goals in the competition.

Thierry Henry has joined his former Arsenal team-mate Cesc Fabregas in becoming a part-owner of Serie B side Como.

France and Gunners legend Henry was confirmed as a shareholder of the ambitious club, owned by the Djarum Group, on Monday.

Ex-Spain midfielder Fabregas recently signed a two-year deal with the Italian side, while also becoming a shareholder in the club.

Henry said: "It is with great pleasure that I announce that I will join Como as a shareholder. I had been waiting for a long time to be involved in a project like that of Como. 

"An ambitious club, but above all a club that lives my same values: not just a football team but a reality that helps the local community "

Como chief executive Dennis Wise, a former Chelsea midfielder, said: "It is a great pleasure for us to introduce Thierry Henry, our new shareholder, who doesn't really need many introductions in the world of football. 

"After explaining to him our vision as a club within the community and our ambition to reach Serie A, Thierry has decided to join our journey and we are very happy to have him in Como."

Although he sees a future in coaching, Cesc Fabregas has ruled out immediate plans to retire following his confirmed departure from Monaco over the weekend.

The 35-year-old was only able to make two league appearances this past season, with ankle and hamstring injuries hampering his ability to see sustained time on the pitch.

Effectively without Fabregas, Monaco finished third in Ligue 1 behind Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille, defeating them both and losing only once in the final 12 games of the season after Niko Kovac's dismissal in December.

Asked on his desire to eventually coach, Fabregas insisted he wants to end his playing career on the right note first.

"First, I still want to play. I don't want to end like this," he told the Ligue 1 website. "It's been too bad a year to end like this. I want to have fun, to finish with good feelings.

"Nothing is decided, I am listening. I am open to everything. Maybe the level of club will have to drop, but there are teams of a lower level in the Champions League. One thing is clear. I'll go to a club where I'll play, where they believe in me."

Fabregas arrived in the principality in January 2019 with the added objective of helping younger players in the squad develop, as Monaco battled relegation under then-boss and former Arsenal team-mate Thierry Henry.

Making 68 appearances over that period, the World Cup winner is content with his time in Monaco overall but seeks a more suitable punctuation mark to his playing career.

"At the time, I signed with one objective, to save the team, which was then 19th with 13 points," he said. "I took a big risk, because relegation was possible. We can be satisfied to have saved the team's top-flight status. I'm proud of what I contributed in those six months.

"When I came here, Thierry Henry and [former Monaco vice president] Vadim Vasilyev also asked me to help the youngsters develop. That was an important point.

"Today, I have the feeling that I have earned the respect and sympathy of this young generation. I hope I have helped. We like each other. I will continue to follow them, to talk with them.

"For me, these two and a half years have been positive. On the other hand, the past season was very bad, the worst of my career. By far, I've never experienced anything like it."

Eddie Nketiah has penned a new long-term contract with Arsenal, while also moving to take the number 14 shirt at Emirates Stadium made iconic by Thierry Henry.

The Hale End academy graduate was due to be available as a free agent following the conclusion of the 2021-22 season but established himself as a core member of Mikel Arteta's side in the latter stages of the Premier League campaign.

Five goals in the final seven matches of the league campaign, during which Arsenal sealed a return to European competition with qualification for next season's Europa League campaign, proved his worth to the club.

"I’m delighted Eddie is staying with us. He represents what we are all about and all the values of the club," Arteta told the club's website.

"We are very happy that he has extended his contract, and now we have to get to work and continue to develop the great talent and person that we have in him."

The number 14 shirt taken by Nketiah was last worn by former captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with Theo Walcott the only other player to use the number since Henry left for Barcelona in 2007.

Technical director Edu also hailed the significance of the new deal penned by Nketiah, who is the all-time leading scorer for England Under-21s side with 16 goals in 17 caps.

"The foundations of this squad are built on young talent and in particular those who have come through our academy system," Edu said.

"Eddie was released by another club as a young man but has always shown he has the attitude as well as the ability to become a top player. 

"The fact he’s signed a new contract is an important part of our squad planning for next season, and we’re all delighted."

Arsenal begin the new season against Crystal Palace on August 5 in the curtain raiser for the 2022-23 Premier League campaign.

Thierry Henry declared the race for the Ballon d'Or over after Karim Benzema lifted the Champions League with Real Madrid on Saturday.

Benzema became just the second French captain to lift the trophy, after Didier Deschamps with Marseille in 1993, following a 1-0 win over Liverpool at the Stade de France.

Carlo Ancelotti's side were largely indebted to the heroics of Thibaut Courtois after the goalkeeper produced nine saves – a Champions League final record since Opta began recording data in 2003-04.

Vinicius Junior may have scored the winner in Paris but a 14th European Cup for Madrid, which is double the tally of second-best Milan (seven), came down to Benzema's efforts throughout the knockout stages.

The 34-year-old netted a hat-trick against Paris Saint-Germain, four goals across two legs with Chelsea and three in the tie with Manchester City, including an extra-time penalty to win the semi-final.

Benzema has been involved in 59 goals this season (45 goals, 15 assists) in all competitions, with only France team-mate Kylian Mbappe (60) bettering that total across Europe's top five leagues.

And Arsenal great Henry believes Benzema ended the debate for who should win the Ballon d'Or this year with his success in Paris.

"I just wanted to say something for France Football or whoever is voting. Close the votes, Benzema won it. Bye," Henry said to CBS Sports after the final.

France coach Didier Deschamps will hope Benzema can lead Les Bleus to more World Cup glory in November, and he echoed Henry's sentiments by suggesting the Madrid talisman should win the award.

"The answer is simple: yes. This new title and the sporting season achieved with his team, and what he was able to do, he was so decisive," Deschamps told Telefoot.

"Obviously, he was already one of the favourites and he deserves this reward."

The Ballon d'Or has been won by Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi in 13 of the past 14 seasons, barring when Benzema's team-mate Luka Modric was named the winner in 2018.

While Benzema may believe his achievements on a personal and team level are enough to stave off Liverpool's Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, the Madrid forward insisted he will be satisfied either way.

"Obviously, I finished my season, now I will join up with the national team," Benzema told Canal Plus.

"I think at club level I can't do better. We'll see what happens but in any case I'm proud of what I've achieved."

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane is Karim Benzema's biggest challenger for this year's Ballon d'Or, according to Arsenal and France legend Thierry Henry.

Benzema is enjoying the best season of his career in front of goal and has played a crucial role in Madrid's run to the Champions League final, where Liverpool await on May 28.

The 34-year-old has scored 43 times and provided a further 14 assists in all competitions, with no other player across Europe's top five leagues directly involved in more goals (57).

Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappe are next on that list with 54 combined goals and assists each, while Mane lags some way behind on 23 for Liverpool – albeit having missed part of the season during the Africa Cup of Nations, which he won with Senegal.

Lewandowski, Mbappe and Anfield team-mate Mohamed Salah have been tipped to rival Benzema for football's top individual award, but Henry believes Mane is better placed. 

"To make the final even bigger, the two favourites for the Ballon d'Or are Mane and Benzema," Henry told CBS Sports. "That will add an extra little spice into it."

Mane played a direct part in five goals for Senegal at AFCON, aiding his cause to be crowned the world's best player.

However, if the former Southampton forward is to have any chance of pipping Benzema to the accolade, Henry says he must win a clean sweep of trophies with Liverpool.

The Reds have already lifted the EFL Cup and are into the FA Cup and Champions League finals, but they trail Manchester City by a point with four Premier League games left.

"I still believe that Benzema is ahead, but if Mane wins [the Champions League] with Liverpool and they do make the quadruple, that is a pretty strong case," Henry said.

"It would be great for Africa, but I'm still going for Benzema."

Benzema finished fourth in the voting for last year's Ballon d'Or, which was won by Lionel Messi for a record-extending seventh time.

Indeed, only one player other than Messi and five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo has won the award since 2008, with Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric triumphing in 2018.

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