3 PSG players among Player of the Year nominees
PARIS (AP) — Zlatan Ibrahimovic is up against two of his Paris Saint-Germain teammates and title rival Monaco’s James Rodriguez as he bids to win the French league’s Player of the Year award for the second straight year.
Ibrahimovic won it last year after scoring a career-high 30 league goals to lead PSG to its first league title since 1994, and the Sweden striker is favorite again after scoring 25 league goals in another prolific season. He was on course to beat his tally from last term before picking up a hamstring injury in the first leg of PSG’s Champions League quarterfinal against Chelsea on April 2.
Central midfielder Thiago Motta and center back Thiago Silva are the other two PSG players. The winner is announced on May 11.
The 32-year-old Ibrahimovic has scored 40 goals in all competitions this season, several of them spectacular, and has set up many others — including 11 in the league, one less than the Colombia winger Rodriguez, who has also netted nine league goals so far.
“I think it’s been a fantastic season, for the team, for the club,” Ibrahimovic said Thursday on RTL radio. “The club’s developing and improving on every level. It’s the sign that the team’s had a very good year. I don’t know who will win, but I hope it’s a PSG player.”
PSG won the League Cup final last month, beating Lyon 2-1, has an eight-point lead over Monaco and can guarantee a second straight title by beating Rennes at home on Wednesday, or even if Monaco fails to beat Guingamp the same evening.
PSG went out in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, beating Chelsea 3-1 at home and losing 2-0 in the return leg at Stamford Bridge.
The Young Player of the Year award is contested between attacking fullbacks Sergie Aurier, who has scored six league goals this season, and Monaco’s Layvin Kurzawa, who has netted five times, PSG midfielder Marco Verratti and Rodriguez — who is nominated again.
Coach of the Year is between PSG’s Laurent Blanc, second-place Monaco’s Claudio Ranieri, Lille’s Rene Girard and Lyon’s Remi Garde.
Despite limited spending, Girard has almost secured third place and a slot in next season’s Champions League, further underlining his coaching credentials after guiding Montpellier to the French title ahead of PSG in one of biggest upsets in French football two years ago.
Garde’s hands were tied in the transfer market, yet he has done remarkably well to get a team featuring many young, home-grown players, to the League Cup final and in contention for a Europa League spot.
PSG features in all four categories, with Salvatore Sirigu nominated in the best goalkeeper category. However, the Italian faces strong competition from Nigeria ’keeper Vincent Enyeama, who went 1,062 minutes without conceding a goal this season. Saint-Etienne’s Stephane Ruffier and Marseille’s inconsistent Steve Mandanda are the other contenders.