Mbappe desperate for first Ballon d'Or win, names Benzema and Mane as main rivals

By Sports Desk August 13, 2022

Kylian Mbappe claimed it is a "big lie" to say players do not care about winning the Ballon d'Or as he named Karim Benzema and Sadio Mane as his main rivals for this year's award.

Mbappe was named on a 30-man shortlist to be named the best player in the world on Friday, having scored 39 goals in all competitions as Paris Saint-Germain won the Ligue 1 title last season.

No player across the top five European leagues matched Mbappe's total of 60 goal contributions across the 2021-22 campaign, although his France team-mate Benzema is the clear favourite after helping Real Madrid to the Champions League and LaLiga trophies. 

In an interview with France Football, Mbappe, who has previously backed Benzema to win the award, acknowledged he was desperate to be named the world's best.

"I've always wanted to do it early, without limiting my dreams. I want to win it and I don't mind admitting it," he said.

"I am convinced that lifting the first one is the most complicated. Once you have officially entered that select group, it will be easier to revalidate it.

"It is a big lie that a footballer is not interested in the Ballon d'Or. It is hypocritical to say that. 

"We all think about that. We talk about a team, and a collective, because in some way it serves to camouflage our ambition, but it is honest to admit that we care. 

"For two years I have been a more real candidate for the award. Before, I was content to be in the top 10. Now, on the other hand, I am among the four or five most regular.

"We don't talk about the Ballon d'Or in January, but we make comments when the lists appear. Later, as the ceremony draws near, it's obviously a topic of conversation in the group. We make our bets, we debate our opinions."

Asked for his own top three, the striker said: "I think Benzema, Mane and me."

 

Mbappe's first Ballon d'Or nomination came in 2017, when then-Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo beat Lionel Messi and Neymar to the award.

And the 23-year-old said being among the hopefuls early on in his career gave him confidence that he would make it at an elite level.

"Frankly, it was an honour," he recalled. "I was barely of legal age and I was already associated with those great names. It may seem trivial, but it was something important. A real step forward in my career. 

"Somehow it was a message that served to say that I was among the best. I accredited myself as an elite footballer in the eyes of the world, and it was significant to belong to that list at only 18 years old."

Meanwhile, the headline omission from 2022's list of nominees is seven-time winner and current holder Lionel Messi, who last failed to be nominated in 2005 – when Ronaldinho edged out Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard in the voting.

As Mbappe recalled his PSG team-mate's victory last year, he said the Argentina star's nervousness on the eve of the gala demonstrated that his desire to be the best remains strong.

"The morning of the last gala he was nervous because a few hours later he was going to collect a seventh Ballon d'Or. Maybe he was thinking about what he was going to say, how he was going to lift the trophy," Mbappe said.

"I told him it is not possible to be restless after having been there six other times. I would have gone with a cigarette in my mouth! 

"But that shows that he retains the soul of a child and that he is still excited to choose to be the best. He has not tired."

 

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    Haaland continued his fine start to life in England by playing a central role in City's 6-3 win over United, clinching a treble and adding two assists for fellow hat-trick hero Phil Foden.

    The Norwegian – who has already hit 17 goals in all competitions this season – became the first player in Premier League history to score hat-tricks in three successive home games on Sunday.

    His tally of five goal contributions at the Etihad Stadium, meanwhile, is the most recorded by a player in a single Premier League Manchester Derby.

    Guardiola refused to take credit for the striker's form after the win, saying: "I said it many times and I will say again – what Erling is doing, he did in Norway, Austria and Germany.

    "The quality we have alongside him helps him score, but what he is doing, I didn't teach him.

    "He has incredible instincts. It comes from his mum and dad. He was born with that."

    As well as laying on two goals for Foden, Haaland created a game-high four chances on Sunday, and Guardiola was delighted by the quality of his link-up play.

    "I have had incredible centre-forwards in my career," Guardiola continued. "What I liked was in the last period of the game, he was involved. I want him to be involved.

    "He became a player to score goals, but I want him in contact with the ball. I like him being part of those situations.

    "But of course, he has to put the ball in the net, and he is a fantastic striker." 

    Haaland has started all 11 of City's competitive games this term, and Guardiola plans to offer him the opportunity to rest at some point. 

    "He will take a break. There will be games he is not going to play," he said.

    "We are lucky, last season he could not play many games in a row – here we have incredible physios and thanks to them, he can play every 90 minutes.

    "They are so important – with their hands, they allow players to play."

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    Haaland continued his fine start to life in England by playing a central role in City's 6-3 win over United, clinching a treble and adding two assists for fellow hat-trick hero Phil Foden.

    The Norwegian – who has already hit 17 goals in all competitions this season – became the first player in Premier League history to score hat-tricks in three successive home games on Sunday.

    His tally of five goal contributions at the Etihad Stadium, meanwhile, is the most recorded by a player in a single Premier League Manchester Derby.

    Guardiola refused to take credit for the striker's form after the win, saying: "I said it many times and I will say again – what Erling is doing, he did in Norway, Austria and Germany.

    "The quality we have alongside him helps him score, but what he is doing, I didn't teach him.

    "He has incredible instincts. It comes from his mum and dad. He was born with that."

    As well as laying on two goals for Foden, Haaland created a game-high four chances on Sunday, and Guardiola was delighted by the quality of his link-up play.

    "I have had incredible centre-forwards in my career," Guardiola continued. "What I liked was in the last period of the game, he was involved. I want him to be involved.

    "He became a player to score goals, but I want him in contact with the ball. I like him being part of those situations.

    "But of course, he has to put the ball in the net, and he is a fantastic striker." 

    Haaland has started all 11 of City's competitive games this term, and Guardiola plans to offer him the opportunity to rest at some point. 

    "He will take a break. There will be games he is not going to play," he said.

    "We are lucky, last season he could not play many games in a row – here we have incredible physios and thanks to them, he can play every 90 minutes.

    "They are so important – with their hands, they allow players to play."

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    Erling Haaland and Phil Foden both scored hat-tricks as City produced a dominant performance against their rivals on Sunday, though a second-half brace from Anthony Martial and a long-range strike from Antony allowed the Red Devils to salvage some pride.

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    Sunday's defeat represents just the fourth time United have conceded six goals in a Premier League match – two of which have come against City (also in a 6-1 loss in October 2011).

    United's last league reverse was also a comprehensive one, but Ten Hag said the defeat at the Etihad was not comparable to last month's 4-0 thrashing at Brentford.

    "I don't think you can compare it," he said. "It's definitely like it was against Brentford mentally, but it's different.

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    While Ten Hag was pleased with Martial's contribution following his second-half introduction, he said it was impossible to take many positives from an "unacceptable" display. 

    "He had a really good pre-season and I'm happy for him that he scored goals, and also for Antony, but in this moment I cannot express for the outside world always positives," Ten Hag added.

    "We are highly disappointed about this result and that has to be the tone for this Sunday. We have to accept that, but our performance is unacceptable.

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    "When you're not on the front foot and when you're not brave enough to play, you get the result like today."

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