Paris Saint-Germain's Zlatan Ibrahimovic (C) celebrates with team mates at the end of his team's French Ligue 1 soccer match against Olympique Lyon at the Gerland stadium in Lyon May 12, 2013. Paris Saint-Germain secured the French Ligue 1 soccer Championships title after beating Olympique Lyon 0-1 on Sunday in Lyon. (Photo : REUTERS/Robert Pratta (FRANCE - Tags: SPORT SOCCER TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) )
Is Zlatan Ibrahimovic the front-runner to win the coveted Ballon d'Or?
Just a few weeks ago Franck Ribery was the top contender to dethrone Lionel Messi due to a tremendous start to 2013. However, most would claim that like most businesses, soccer is one that relies on an old saying: "It's not how you start, but how you finish."
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Ribery has been terrific in recent months, but Ibrahimovic is the shining star of world of football. He may not have as many trophies as Ribery in 2013 and he has not scored as many goals as Cristiano Ronaldo or Messi, but he has been an MVP candidate for sure. How else does one explain Paris Saint-Germain's trophy last season? Or Sweden's improbable run to the World Cup playoffs? Or even Paris' dominant display in the Champions League in 2013-14? Ibrahimovic is the man behind all of this success and his six-goal week, which including a four-goal performance against Anderlecht, has turned all the heads in his direction.
"Right now, he's better than Messi and Ronaldo. At 32, he knows how best to exploit his talent." Who said that? None other than Arsenal Coach Arsene Wenger, according to Metro.
Ballon d'Or winner Franz Beckenbauer also lauded Ibrahimovic's contention aspirations.
"I have a soft spot for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He scores a lot of goals, but moreover they are all amazingly beautiful," he said, according to Sports Direct. "He is among the three best forwards in the world, there is no question about it... Perhaps will he make a surprise for the Ballon d'Or, who knows? He would deserve it."
Also helping his case is Messi's recent "mediocre" gameplay. With the standards set as high as they have by the Argentine, it is alarming to see him struggle to assert himself on the pitch in crucial games against AC Milan and Real Madrid. His nagging injuries are hurting his play and if they continue, they may destroy his career. Time will tell, but at the moment, Messi is not the player that scored 92 goals a year ago. As for Ronaldo, his team's mediocre play has hindered his overall impact and Ibrahimovic's wonderful performance for both club and country (Ronaldo has been inconsistent with Portugal) has certainly given him that edge.