Former France international Jean-Pierre Papin believes that Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s recent form could earn him the Ballon d’Or.
Ibrahimovic, 32, scored four times in Paris Saint-Germain’s 5-0 Champions League win over Anderlecht on Wednesday, bringing his tally to ten goals in five games for club and country.
Along with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Franck Ribery -- the holder of the UEFA Best Player in Europe award -- is the favourite to win the Ballon d’Or on Jan. 13. A 23-man shortlist is set to be released on Oct. 29.
But Papin, a winner of the award himself in 1991, told L’Equipe that Ibrahimovic is now in with a shout too, comparing his case with that of former Netherlands international Marco van Basten, who claimed the accolade in 1992.
“Since Wednesday, it’s possible,” the ex-Marseille and Bayern Munich forward said of Ibrahimovic’s chances. “Van Basten won the Ballon d’Or on the back of scoring two hat tricks in one week with AC Milan. One against Gothenburg in the Champions League and then one in Naples in the league.”
Two spectacular strikes against Bastia and Anderlecht -- and six goals in two games -- have certainly strengthened Ibrahimovic’s argument.
The Sweden captain also won the Ligue 1 title last season and found the net 30 times to finish as the league’s top scorer.
But Papin feels that Ibrahimovic’s four goals against Anderlecht could be telling, while how he performs for Sweden in their World Cup playoff with Portugal could also prove decisive.
“Since Wednesday, he’s put a lot of pressure on the others,” Papin said. “For me, it will not be Messi’s year because he hasn’t played enough matches or won enough titles. The three others are taking part in the playoffs for the World Cup. Those two matches could make the difference.”
Former Italy international Dino Zoff also feels that Ibrahimovic could be officially recognised as the best player in the world in January if he continues to perform in the same manner.
“His strength is that he scores goals that no one else can score,” he told L’Equipe.
It is hard to argue against Ribery, who won the Champions League, Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal with Bayern Munich last season.
But former Bayern star Franz Beckenbauer -- himself a two-time winner of the award -- feels that Ibrahimovic has a strong case too
“Not only does he score a lot of goals, but as well as that they’re all of incredible beauty,” he told L’Equipe. “He’s among the three best forwards in the world -- that’s indisputable. Could he create a big surprise in the race for the Ballon d’Or? Who knows. He will not have stolen it. But I think all the same, that Ribery is the big favourite.”