Three PSG players in the hat for 2013 Ballon d’Or

French magazine France Football published on Tuesday the names of 23 footballers, including three PSG players, who are in the running for the prestigious 2013 Ballon d’Or award for the best footballer in the world. But who deserves the gong the most?

Three PSG players in the hat for 2013 Ballon d’Or
Photo: AFP

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is there, Cristiano Ronaldo is there and Gareth Bale is there too and so too of course, is the four-time winner Lionel Messi.

These four players were among the names released by French football magazine France Football on Tuesday who are in the running for the 2013 Ballon d’Or award.

In a sign of the growing power of French football, or at least the dominance of two clubs, the French Ligue 1 is represented by four players, most notably PSG striker Ibrahimovic. Last year only one Ligue 1 made it on to the shortlist.

He is joined on the list by PSG's Brazilian defender Thiago Silva and the Paris club's Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani. Monaco’s Radamel Falcao is the fourth player who plies his trade in France to make the list. However the only Frenchman to make list is Bayern Munich's Franck Ribéry.

The list will be whittled down to three names on December 9th with the winner being announced on January 13th in Zurich.

The full list of 23 players is as follows:

Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
Edinson Cavani (Paris-SG)
Radamel Falcao (Monaco)
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris-SG)
Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona)
Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich)
Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Thomas Müller (Bayern Munich)
Neymar (Barcelona)
Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)
Mesut Özil (Arsenal)
Andrea Pirlo (Juventus Turin)
Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)
Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich)
Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Thiago Silva (Paris-SG)
Yaya Touré (Manchester City)
Robin van Persie (Manchester United)
Xavi (Barcelona)

A ten-name shortlist for the coach of the year award was also released on Tuesday. The list is as follows:

Carlo Ancelotti (Real Madrid/ex-Paris St Germain), Rafael Benitez (Napoli/ex-Chelsea), Antonio Conte (Juventus), Vicente Del Bosque (Spain), Sir Alex Ferguson (ex-Manchester United), Jupp Heynckes (ex-Bayern Munich), Jurgen Klopp (Borussia Dortmund), Jose Mourinho (Chelsea/ex-Real Madrid), Luiz Felipe Scolari (Brazil), Arsene Wenger (Arsenal).

Should Zlatan Ibrahimovic win the Ballon d'Or?

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OPINION: Mbappé’s title, but PSG need to breathe new life into Qatari project

After being the star of France's 2018 World Cup triumph, Kylian Mbappé has been the standout player for Paris Saint-Germain in a Ligue 1 title-winning campaign that has been slightly marred by the manner in which they limped over the line.

OPINION: Mbappé's title, but PSG need to breathe new life into Qatari project
Photos AFP

PSG finally wrapped up the title on Sunday after second-placed Lille failed to beat Toulouse, having not won any of their previous three games when the opportunity to confirm a sixth French crown in seven seasons was there.

The Qatari-owned club can still make it a domestic double, with the French Cup final to come against Rennes next weekend, yet this will not be remembered as a vintage year.

While Neymar once again went missing due to injury at the crucial point, Edinson Cavani has struggled with fitness too, and coach Thomas Tuchel has regularly lashed out at the lack of depth in his squad.

The 5-1 capitulation at Lille a week ago was the worst league result for PSG since Qatar Sports Investments bought the club in 2011, and the first time they had let in five in a league game since 2000.

A record-breaking 14-match winning run with which they started the season now seems like a long time ago, the latest Champions League failure clouding Tuchel's first campaign in charge.

Mbappé, at least, has been a constant, revelling in his status as a World Cup winner and hardly ever being rested. He only turned 20 in December, but has now won three Ligue 1 titles in a row.

Mbappé has 36 goals in 40 games this season, with 30 in the league. And, frighteningly, his team-mate Daniel Alves told RMC recently that “he doesn't realise how good he is, he can go much further”.

He is also not used to losing, and may have upset some of his teammates with his assessment of last week's defeat at Lille. “We played like beginners,” he said.

Hollow ring

To be fair, they have usually been exceptional domestically. However, the problem is that as long as they keep failing in the Champions League, domestic success for a club backed by a Gulf state will continue to ring hollow.

The title has effectively been in the bag for some time, but their season has been winding down ever since their exit against Manchester United in the last 16.

That, combined with being knocked out in the League Cup quarter-finals, means Tuchel in his first season has actually done worse than Unai Emery, his unloved predecessor.

Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel has actually done worse than his predecessor, Unai Emery
However, according to sports daily L'Equipe, Tuchel has agreed to extend his contract to 2021. Thoughts have already turned to the future, with new signings needed at the Parc des Princes.

The costly Neymar experiment cannot be said to have succeeded until he stays fit for the games that matter, and there will always be speculation about his future.

“We have a contract, we're not even halfway through that contract,” Neymar's father pointed out to RMC Sport.

Time for a clear-out? 

Mbappé is the one man they really cannot afford to lose, but is it time for a clear-out elsewhere?

Some of the excitement of the early part of the decade has gone, replaced with a staleness. The days of Thiago Silva, Edinson Cavani and Marco Verratti are maybe ending.

Youri Djorkaeff, a World Cup winner for France and a PSG star in the 1990s, offers a frank assessment, suggesting real change is needed higher up.

“If you're not great in every compartment, from the bus driver to the girls who clean the shirts, you will go nowhere,” he told Ligue 1 Podcast, 'Le Beau Jeu'.

“Paris Saint-Germain, after many years without success, have to rebuild everything, restart from scratch, because the foundations are not good. You cannot expect to one day win the Champions League without these foundations.”

The Qatar project needs a breath of fresh air, and all eyes will be on president Nasser al-Khelaifi and sporting director Antero Henrique.

UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules remain a problem, though, with PSG said to have a hole of around 100 million euros and the need to present a balanced budget by the end of June. The next few months will be interesting.

By Andy Scott/AFP