Saturday, May 21

After Pedri won the Golden Boy Award – what happened to the rest of the winners of the prize?

What happened to the Golden Boys? Pedri is the latest winner, but while a few have become superstars, Van der Vaart is now a DARTS player, two have ended up at Turkish minnows and some can barely get a game!

  • Barcelona wonderkid Pedri was named as the Golden Boy winner for 2021
  • The prize is voted by journalists and is given to the best Under-21 star in Europe
  • Pedri has joined the likes of Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi in getting the gong
  • Sportsmail looks at what has happened to the other 18 Golden Boy winners…


<!–

<!–

<!–

<!–
(function (src, d, tag){ var s = d.createElement(tag), prev = d.getElementsByTagName(tag)[0]; s.src = src; prev.parentNode.insertBefore(s, prev); }(“https://www.dailymail.co.uk/static/gunther/1.17.0/async_bundle–.js”, document, “script”));

<!– DM.loadCSS(“https://www.dailymail.co.uk/static/gunther/gunther-2159/video_bundle–.css”);

<!–

They say you shouldn’t big up young players too much. Unless you’re the very best, in which case you are given high-profile prizes such as the Golden Boy Award.

The annual honour crowning the best European player under the age of 21 is a hotly-contested award. A list of 100 names is whittled down to 60, then 40, then 20 before the eventual winner is announced.

This year’s prize has gone to Barcelona‘s 18-year-old midfielder Pedri – and what a year he has had. After breaking into the Barca team, he turned out over 50 times for the LaLiga giants last term before taking Spain to the Euro 2020 semi-finals and the Olympic Games gold medal match. 

Barcelona wonderkid Pedri was named as the European Golden Boy winner for 2021

Barcelona wonderkid Pedri was named as the European Golden Boy winner for 2021

Barcelona wonderkid Pedri was named as the European Golden Boy winner for 2021

Sportsmail looks at what happened to the previous winners of the under-21 football gong...

Sportsmail looks at what happened to the previous winners of the under-21 football gong...

Sportsmail looks at what happened to the previous winners of the under-21 football gong…

But how well have the previous winners of the Golden Boy done after winning the prize? There is certainly a wide range of fates for those who have been deemed the best young player in Europe over the years.

For example, Golden Boy winners have gone on to score in the last two World Cup finals, while some have barely made the grade and their careers are petering out in minor leagues.

With Pedri set to find out which road he will go down, Sportsmail looks at what happened to all of the Golden Boy winners since the award was founded 18 years ago…

2003 – Rafael van der Vaart (Holland)

The first winner of the award went to Rafael van der Vaart in 2003, who was already making strides in Dutch football at the time.

The Ajax midfielder was presented with the award having already broken into the Dutch national team two years earlier, while he also scored 22 goals in the 2002-03 season for his club.

Rafael van der Vaart (holding trophy, right) won the first Golden Boy prize back in 2003

Rafael van der Vaart (holding trophy, right) won the first Golden Boy prize back in 2003

Rafael van der Vaart (holding trophy, right) won the first Golden Boy prize back in 2003

Despite the Golden Boy award elevating his status in the European game, Van der Vaart’s next career move was to German club Hamburg for £5million in 2005, where he continued his rise in the Bundesliga.

His dream move came three years later when he joined Real Madrid, though he was only really used as an impact substitute at the Santiago Bernabeu. After two seasons and 73 games for Los Blancos, Van der Vaart joined Spurs where he became a cult hero at White Hart Lane. 

The Dutch attacking midfielder was Spurs’ top goalscorer with 13 in his first season as they reached the Champions League quarter-finals but finished fifth in the league. He would spend two more years at the club after that before ending his career at Real Betis, then Danish clubs FC Midtjylland and Esbjerg fB. 

Van der Vaart had a stellar career for Holland, Real Madrid and Spurs in the Premier League

Van der Vaart had a stellar career for Holland, Real Madrid and Spurs in the Premier League

Van der Vaart had a stellar career for Holland, Real Madrid and Spurs in the Premier League

Van der Vaart now works as a TV pundit and is also a professional darts player for the BDO

Van der Vaart now works as a TV pundit and is also a professional darts player for the BDO

Van der Vaart now works as a TV pundit and is also a professional darts player for the BDO

Van der Vaart was probably best known for his impact on the international scene, playing in five international tournaments for the Netherlands, including two World Cups.  The midfielder played 109 times for the Oranje and is their fourth most-capped player of all time. 

Van der Vaart retired from the game in 2018 but is still involved in sports, somewhat bizarrely, having joined the British Darts Organisation a year later.

He also works as a controversial TV pundit where he has clashed with the Spanish national team and Thibaut Courtois in recent months. 

2004 – Wayne Rooney (England)

Wayne Rooney announced himself to the world in 2004, mainly via his heroics in the European Championship for England that year.

The forward had already joined Manchester United for a then club-record £30million fee by the time he became the first English winner of the Golden Boy that calendar year. 

Wayne Rooney rose to stardom in 2004 after a stellar European Championship for England

Wayne Rooney rose to stardom in 2004 after a stellar European Championship for England

Wayne Rooney rose to stardom in 2004 after a stellar European Championship for England

Rooney would go on to enjoy a fabulous career at both club and international level, ending his career as Manchester United and England’s all-time record goalscorer.

‘Wazza’ went on to claim five Premier League titles for Sir Alex Ferguson’s United, while he also picked up the 2008 Champions League title and was named fifth in the Ballon d’Or race in 2011.  

He left the Red Devils in 2017 with 253 goals in over 550 games for the club with 16 major honours including the 2016 FA Cup in which he captained his side to victory.

Rooney also wore the armband at international level for England but a small regret was that he never managed to win silverware with the Three Lions – and failed to score in his first two World Cups for his country due to ill-timed injuries.

Rooney is Man United and England's record goalscorer and won the Champions League

Rooney is Man United and England's record goalscorer and won the Champions League

Rooney is Man United and England’s record goalscorer and won the Champions League

The striker did manage to net 53 goals for England though, more than any other player in the country’s international history.

Rooney was also a cult hero at boyhood club Everton where he started and ended his Premier League career, while he also turned out for DC United in the MLS and Championship club Derby County, who he now manages.  

2005 – Lionel Messi (Argentina)

This boy did well, didn’t he?

Lionel Messi has had such an incredible career that his 2005 Golden Boy victory looks tiny in comparison to what the Argentine has won during his career. 

Lionel Messi is the other Barcelona star to have won the Golden Boy prize before Pedri

Lionel Messi is the other Barcelona star to have won the Golden Boy prize before Pedri

Lionel Messi is the other Barcelona star to have won the Golden Boy prize before Pedri

The attacker had only played around a dozen first-team games for Barcelona when he won the Golden Boy award 16 years ago – but whoever saw enough talent there has certainly been proved right. 

Messi has gone on to become one of the greatest players of all-time and has gone on to win six Ballon d’Or Awards during his career.

His 672 goals in his 17 seasons at Barcelona helped the club win 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions League trophies, with Messi picking up 35 major honours with the Catalans before his shock free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain this season.

Messi scored 672 goals for Barcelona and is now turning out for Paris Saint-Germain in France

Messi scored 672 goals for Barcelona and is now turning out for Paris Saint-Germain in France

Messi scored 672 goals for Barcelona and is now turning out for Paris Saint-Germain in France

Messi did not have as much success at international level as, even though the forward has 80 goals in 158 caps for his country, he failed to win a trophy with Argentina until the Copa America earlier this year. 

See also  Erling Haaland: What the Man City move means for Harry Kane, Darwin Nunez, Salah and Lewandwoski?

Messi’s career may be coming to an end but he still manages to dazzle us at the age of 34. He is without doubt the most successful Golden Boy winner there will ever be. 

2006 – Cesc Fabregas (Spain)

Cesc Fabregas had just led Arsenal to the Champions League final when he was presented with the Golden Boy award in 2006. 

Having been deemed Europe’s best young player under Arsene Wenger’s stewardship, it is perhaps a great shame that he never lifted a trophy again with the Gunners after claiming that individual gong. 

Golden Boy winner Cesc Fabregas helped Arsenal to the Champions League final in 2006

Golden Boy winner Cesc Fabregas helped Arsenal to the Champions League final in 2006

Golden Boy winner Cesc Fabregas helped Arsenal to the Champions League final in 2006

A run of 57 goals and 96 assists in 300 Arsenal games came to an end in 2011 when he moved to boyhood club Barcelona for £35m, where he won LaLiga, Copa del Rey and Club World Cup titles at the Nou Camp along with the Spanish and UEFA Super Cups. 

After three years in Barcelona, Fabregas made a shock return to Chelsea where he won two Premier League titles and the FA Cup and Carabao Cup trophies under Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte.

Fabregas also was part of a Spanish national team who won the 2010 World Cup and the European Championship titles in 2008 and 2012, with the midfielder setting up Andres Iniesta for the winning goal in the biggest game of them all.

Fabregas won league titles with Barcelona and Chelsea along with the World Cup with Spain

Fabregas won league titles with Barcelona and Chelsea along with the World Cup with Spain

Fabregas won league titles with Barcelona and Chelsea along with the World Cup with Spain

The midfielder, who was known for his creativity and eye for a precise pass, is in the twilight of his career at Monaco at the moment but is looking towards management when his career ends. 

2007 – Sergio Aguero (Argentina)

Sergio Aguero had only just moved to Europe when he was named the continent’s best young player in 2007, having joined Atletico Madrid from Independiente.

The Argentine became a big hit in the Spanish capital, scoring 102 goals in 234 matches as Los Colchoneros won the Europa League and the Super Cup in 2010.

But it was at Manchester City where Aguero really mark his mark on the game. 

Sergio Aguero was at Atletico Madrid when he won the Golden Boy prize back in 2007

Sergio Aguero was at Atletico Madrid when he won the Golden Boy prize back in 2007

Sergio Aguero was at Atletico Madrid when he won the Golden Boy prize back in 2007

He ended his decade-long spell as the Premier League club’s all-time record goalscorer with 260 goals in 390 matches, winning five Premier League titles, one FA Cup and six League Cup trophies. 

Aguero was also responsible for one of the greatest Premier League moments of all-time when the striker netted a last-gasp winner against QPR to gift City its first Premier League title in 2012 in the most dramatic of circumstances. 

The forward has suffered from career heartbreak too. He lost the 2014 World Cup final with Argentina to Germany while he was also beaten in his final ever City match – this year’s Champions League final defeat to Chelsea. 

The Argentine won five Premier League titles in a decade-long spell at Manchester City

The Argentine won five Premier League titles in a decade-long spell at Manchester City

The Argentine won five Premier League titles in a decade-long spell at Manchester City

But at international level he has enjoyed great success, winning the FIFA Under-20 title twice with Argentina alongside an Olympic Gold medal in Beijing 2008 and this year’s Copa America trophy alongside Messi.

It looks as though Aguero’s career is currently in serious doubt after the forward went off with heart palpitations in his full Barcelona debut this month. If it is the end, what a career it has been for him.  

2008 – Anderson (Brazil)

We’re now reaching the part of the list where the next few Golden Boy winners didn’t quite reach their potential.

Manchester United midfielder Anderson had quite a calendar year in 2008 at Old Trafford. The Brazilian won the Premier League title that year, picked up the Champions League trophy as well while he also claimed an Olympic bronze medal with his country.

Anderson was tipped for big things when he was at Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United

Anderson was tipped for big things when he was at Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United

Anderson was tipped for big things when he was at Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United

Sadly for the midfielder, it did not get much better after he was presented with the Golden Boy award at the end of that year. 

He won three more league titles at Old Trafford but his game time reduced every season, which cost him his place in the Brazil national team squad. 

Michael Owen, who played with Anderson at Old Trafford, described the midfielder as ‘very talented’ but hit out at his work-rate, injury record and inability to be flexible in his positioning. 

After leaving United in 2015, Anderson went back to Brazil where he turned out for Internacional and Coritiba, before ending his career at Turkish minnows Adana Demirspor, where he is now working as an assistant manager.   

The Brazilian midfielder suffered from injuries in his career which halted his progress

The Brazilian midfielder suffered from injuries in his career which halted his progress

The Brazilian midfielder suffered from injuries in his career which halted his progress

2009 – Alexandre Pato (Brazil)

Known for his pace and clinical finishing, Alexandre Pato was making great strides at AC Milan when the Golden Boy Award had his name on it in 2009.

It looked like the Brazilian was an excellent pick for the prize too a few years later, when he hit a third successive Serie A double-digit goal tally between 2008 and 2011.

The 2010-11 season is undoubtedly the high point of his career, where he was part of an electric front three with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho – who all scored 14 league goals that term to win the Rossoneri the Scudetto.

Alexandre Pato helped AC Milan to their last Serie A title after winning the Golden Boy prize

Alexandre Pato helped AC Milan to their last Serie A title after winning the Golden Boy prize

Alexandre Pato helped AC Milan to their last Serie A title after winning the Golden Boy prize

That remains Milan’s last Serie A trophy but it also represents Pato’s final stellar club moment in his career. The Brazilian then struggled with injuries for his final two years at Milan and has since spent the majority of his club career away from Europe.

A move to Corinthians saw him regain some form but it was never enough to bring him back to the elite level. A cameo loan spell at Chelsea saw him score one Premier League goal in two matches but six months at Villarreal showed he was far from the level that many predicted him to reach.

Pato still turned out for Brazil until 2013 and his Selecao record of 10 goals in 27 matches is not too shabby. 

But the forward has spent the last four years playing in China, Brazil and now the United States with Orlando City, though he has barely turned out for the MLS franchise this season. 

The Brazilian (right) is now playing in the MLS with Orlando City after a disappointing career

The Brazilian (right) is now playing in the MLS with Orlando City after a disappointing career

The Brazilian (right) is now playing in the MLS with Orlando City after a disappointing career

2010 – Mario Balotelli (Italy)

Ah Mario, what could have been. 

The Italian striker was the rising wonderkid when Inter Milan won the treble under Jose Mourinho in 2010, which rightly earned him the Golden Boy award that year.

A move to Manchester City a year later billed him as one of the most exciting young talents to reach the Premier League in years  – but that proved to be the case mainly with his off-field antics.

A 2011 move to Manchester City was filled with controversial moments for the Italian (left)

A 2011 move to Manchester City was filled with controversial moments for the Italian (left)

A 2011 move to Manchester City was filled with controversial moments for the Italian (left)

Whether it be costly and needless red cards, that ‘why always me?’ t-shirt, fireworks parties in his house or his high-profile Manchester shopping sprees, the controversies clouded his time at the Etihad Stadium and it was a reputation that overshadowed the rest of his career.

A return to Milan, this time for rivals AC, put Balotelli back on track in terms of goalscoring prowess but other spells at Liverpool, Nice, Marseille and Brescia showed how far the Italian had regressed.

Despite constant abuse from the Italian crowds, his record for the national team was excellent. Euro 2012 was a high-point where he scored twice at the semi-final stage against Germany, which included one of many iconic goal celebrations, but Italy lost the eventual final to Spain. 

After turning out for Silvio Berlusconi’s other football venture Monza in Serie B last season, Balotelli is currently working under fellow Golden Boy winner Anderson at Adana Demirspor, where he has five goals in 13 matches this season. 

Balotelli is now playing for Turkish minnows Adana Demirspor with Anderson there as a coach

Balotelli is now playing for Turkish minnows Adana Demirspor with Anderson there as a coach

Balotelli is now playing for Turkish minnows Adana Demirspor with Anderson there as a coach

2011 – Mario Gotze (Germany)

Mario Gotze became the first Golden Boy recipient to score the winning goal in the World Cup final.

The German was in the middle of firing Borussia Dortmund to back-to-back Bundesliga titles under Jurgen Klopp when he was awarded the Golden Boy prize in 2011 – and there was even better awards to come for the midfielder.

His best ever goalscoring season for Dortmund resulted in a controversial free transfer to Bayern Munich, where he won three more Bundesliga titles under Pep Guardiola before falling out of favour at the Allianz Arena amid recurring health problems.

Mario Gotze won the Golden Boy prize while winning back-to-back titles at Borussia Dortmund

Mario Gotze won the Golden Boy prize while winning back-to-back titles at Borussia Dortmund

Mario Gotze won the Golden Boy prize while winning back-to-back titles at Borussia Dortmund

Gotze (left) went on to score the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final for Germany

Gotze (left) went on to score the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final for Germany

Gotze (left) went on to score the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final for Germany

But it is at Bayern where he earned cult hero status in Germany by popping up in extra-time in the 2014 World Cup final to down Argentina. 

Gotze moved back to Dortmund in 2016 but it wasn’t long until the World Cup winner was exiled there, lasting four more seasons before ending up at PSV Eindhoven, where he still plays. 

His last Germany cap came in 2017 – but that moment at the Brazil World Cup lives long in the memory.  

2012 – Isco (Spain)

Isco has spent so much time at Real Madrid that fans have almost forgotten that his best spell as a player arguably came during his Malaga days. 

The Spanish midfielder beat current team-mate Thibaut Courtois to the award back in 2012 just after helping his side to a spot in the Champions League.

Malaga would go on to qualify for the quarter-finals of that competitoin in the 2012-13 season, which saw Isco face an intense transfer decision between Real Madrid and Manchester City.

Isco was one of Europe's most sought-after midfielders while he was playing for Malaga

Isco was one of Europe's most sought-after midfielders while he was playing for Malaga

Isco was one of Europe’s most sought-after midfielders while he was playing for Malaga

Isco has been at Real Madrid for eight years but has never starred in the Spanish capital

Isco has been at Real Madrid for eight years but has never starred in the Spanish capital

Isco has been at Real Madrid for eight years but has never starred in the Spanish capital

Eventually, the Spanish international picked Real in 2013 but his time at the Santigao Bernabeu has been mixed. The midfielder averages around 25 league appearances a season but has never been the main man at Real and is now simply a squad player.

The 29-year-old should be in the prime of his career and while he has four Champions League medals to his name, his last Spain call-up came two years ago. 

The midfielder has only started two league games for Real this season and there’s the feeling that his club career is slowly ebbing away.  

2013 – Paul Pogba (France)

2013 was the year Paul Pogba announced himself to the world. 

After joining Juventus on a free transfer from Manchester United, the French midfielder then played a key role in earning the Old Lady back-to-back league titles in 2013 and 2014 in and amongst him winning the Golden Boy prize.

Two more Scudetto titles followed but then came a dramatic world record move back to United for £89m. Pogba inspired the Red Devils to three trophies in his first season back at Old Trafford but major honours have not arrived since.

Paul Pogba announced himself to the world at Juventus before returning to Manchester United

Paul Pogba announced himself to the world at Juventus before returning to Manchester United

Paul Pogba announced himself to the world at Juventus before returning to Manchester United

The 2018-19 season saw Pogba return the best numbers of his career with 13 Premier League goals but that was very much the high point of his second United spell.

Injuries and lack of form have affected the Frenchman, while the opposite could be said for his international career.

Pogba’s best displays in recent years have come for France with one of his 11 goals coming in the 2018 World Cup final victory over Croatia. 

The midfielder is likely to reach 100 France caps before the end of his career, but his club future at Manchester United is under threat with his contract up at the end of this season.  

Pogba (left) could be shown the door at Old Trafford when his contract ends next year

Pogba (left) could be shown the door at Old Trafford when his contract ends next year

Pogba (left) could be shown the door at Old Trafford when his contract ends next year

2014 – Raheem Sterling (England)

Liverpool may not have won the Premier League title in 2014 but their wonderkid Raheem Sterling, who scored 10 goals that season, ended up with the Golden Boy prize as a consolation.

The Reds winger has since become one of the poster boys for English football, but in different colours. Sterling has become an icon at Manchester City and has hit double digit Premier League goal tallies in each of this last four full seasons.

Sterling has won three Premier League titles at the Etihad Stadium, has scored an FA Cup final hat-trick and picked up four Carabao Cup trophies, while he came agonisingly close to winning the Champions League last season. 

Raheem Sterling (middle) won the Golden Boy award when he was playing for Liverpool

Raheem Sterling (middle) won the Golden Boy award when he was playing for Liverpool

Raheem Sterling (middle) won the Golden Boy award when he was playing for Liverpool

Sterling has become an icon for both Manchester City and England over his career

Sterling has become an icon for both Manchester City and England over his career

Sterling has become an icon for both Manchester City and England over his career

At international level, Sterling had his best spell in an England shirt to date this summer when the winger scored three goals at Euro 2020 as the Three Lions reached the final. 

But like Pogba, Sterling’s future in Manchester is under threat and he could seek a move away from the Etihad should his game time not improve. 

2015 – Anthony Martial (France)

Anthony Martial’s Golden Boy prize in 2015 coincided with his £36million move to Manchester United earlier that calendar year.

The striker started that year as Monaco’s top scorer as they reached the Champions League quarter-finals under Leonardo Jardim, before netting 17 in his first season at Old Trafford. 

Unfortunately for Martial, he has struggled to reach those goalscoring heights at United ever since. In fact, the striker only managed to surpass the tally from his debut season just once – in the 2019-20 season where he scored 23 times. 

Anthony Martial won the Golden Boy prize after his £36m move to Manchester United

Anthony Martial won the Golden Boy prize after his £36m move to Manchester United

Anthony Martial won the Golden Boy prize after his £36m move to Manchester United

Now aged 25, Martial is struggling to make his mark at Old Trafford with the Frenchman behind the likes of Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani in the attacking pecking order.

His France career hasn’t exactly taken off either, with the striker scoring just twice for Les Bleus in 30 caps and was not part of their 2018 World Cup-winning squad. 

2016 – Renato Sanches (Portugal)

There have been several twists and turns in the career of Portugal midfielder Renato Sanches.

He broke through in senior football in 2016 which saw him help Benfica to the Portuguese top-flight title that season and then was one of the players of the tournament as his country won Euro 2016.

That remarkable rise sparked a move to Bayern Munich that summer but the midfielder flopped in Germany, playing just 50 times over four seasons and scoring just twice in all competitions.

Renato Sanches came from nowhere to win the Euro 2016 title for Portugal five years ago

Renato Sanches came from nowhere to win the Euro 2016 title for Portugal five years ago

Renato Sanches came from nowhere to win the Euro 2016 title for Portugal five years ago

Sanches went from Bayern Munich to Swansea but is now playing at French champions Lille

Sanches went from Bayern Munich to Swansea but is now playing at French champions Lille

Sanches went from Bayern Munich to Swansea but is now playing at French champions Lille

Sanches’ dismal time at Bayern saw him make a bizarre loan move to Swansea in 2018 – just 18 months after he won Euro 2016 with Portugal – but the midfielder struggled in Wales and failed to score in 15 appearances. 

The midfielder then moved to Lille in 2019 and helped the French side achieve a shock Ligue 1 title victory last season and has now reinstated himself as one of the most sought-after players in Europe as well. 

Sanches, 24, is now back in the Portugal fold and has even ousted Bruno Fernandes in his country’s starting line-up recently. A Premier League return has been rumoured, but it will probably be to a better club than Swansea… 

2017 – Kylian Mbappe (France)

Another one which the Golden Boy prize pickers got right. Kylian Mbappe is now one of the world’s top attackers after breaking onto the scene in 2017.

The Frenchman came from nowhere to score 26 goals in all competitions in the 2016-17 season for Monaco, even though he barely featured in the first half of the season.

Monaco won the French top-flight and reached the Champions League semi-finals that season – and PSG had seen enough. 

Kylian Mbappe also came from nowhere to fire Monaco to the Champions League semi-finals

Kylian Mbappe also came from nowhere to fire Monaco to the Champions League semi-finals

Kylian Mbappe also came from nowhere to fire Monaco to the Champions League semi-finals

Mbappe has become the poster boy for French football with PSG and the national team

Mbappe has become the poster boy for French football with PSG and the national team

Mbappe has become the poster boy for French football with PSG and the national team

The French giants signed him on loan then backed up that move with a £166m permanent fee in what was a world record move for a few weeks before Neymar joined the same club for £220m later that summer. 

Since then, Mbappe has become an icon in French football for club and country. His PSG goal record stands at 139 strikes in 187 games and he is widely expected to join Real Madrid when his contract ends at the end of this season.

The forward has 24 goals in 53 caps for France and also has a World Cup winner’s medal to his name – all before the age of 22. 

Mbappe went from Golden Boy winner to World Cup final goalscorer in a year – and the frightening thing is there is much, much more to come. 

2018 – Matthijs de Ligt (Holland)

Like Mbappe, Matthijs de Ligt helped his club reach the Champions League semi-finals on the way to the Golden Boy award that year.

But unlike the Frenchman – or anyone else who has won the award in its history – De Ligt managed to claim the award as a central defender.

Matthijs De Ligt won the Golden Boy prize after rising to prominence at Dutch giants Ajax

Matthijs De Ligt won the Golden Boy prize after rising to prominence at Dutch giants Ajax

Matthijs De Ligt won the Golden Boy prize after rising to prominence at Dutch giants Ajax

The Dutchman was part of an exciting Ajax side that crashed out of the Champions League semi-finals in the 2018-19 season to Tottenham via Lucas Moura’s dramatic hat-trick.

But De Ligt turned out 55 times that season as Ajax won the Dutch double while he was also trusted with the captaincy for several important clashes in that campaign.

The following year, De Ligt sealed a free transfer to Juventus where he has failed to show the progress that the threatened to make in his younger days.

The Dutch international has failed to usurp Juventus’ iconic centre-back duo of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini and his future in Turin is very much under threat. 

De Ligt is currently at Juventus but could leave the Italian giants at some point next year

De Ligt is currently at Juventus but could leave the Italian giants at some point next year

De Ligt is currently at Juventus but could leave the Italian giants at some point next year

De Ligt is a regular at international level for Holland but his red card in their Euro 2020 exit shows there is a long way to go before we start calling the centre-back world class.

He is still just 22 years old, so there is still time.  

2019 – Joao Felix (Portugal)

Portuguese forward Joao Felix rose to soaring heights as his teenage years came to an end.

The striker scored 20 goals for Benfica in the 2019-20 season won him the Golden Boy award and made him one of the top young forwards in the world. 

He then became the fourth-highest transfer in world football when Atletico Madrid splurged out £113m for him as Antoine Griezmann’s replacement, and while he has kept on scoring goals there is still the feeling the forward could do more to pay off that fee. 

Joao Felix won the 2019 Golden Boy prize after impressing for Benfica and Portugal that year

Joao Felix won the 2019 Golden Boy prize after impressing for Benfica and Portugal that year

Joao Felix won the 2019 Golden Boy prize after impressing for Benfica and Portugal that year

Young star Felix is currently competing in a very competitive Atletico Madrid front line

Young star Felix is currently competing in a very competitive Atletico Madrid front line

Young star Felix is currently competing in a very competitive Atletico Madrid front line

Felix has scored 20 goals in 87 matches for Diego Simeone’s side since then but was a regular when Atleti won the LaLiga title last season. He is currently competing for places in a highly competitive Atleti front line, which includes Luis Suarez and the returning Griezmann. 

Like De Ligt though, Felix is still just 22 years of age so can improve on his game in the years to come.

2020 – Erling Haaland (Norway)

Erling Haaland’s rise in the past two years is simply frightening.

The Leeds-born striker dominated the world’s attention when he netted 28 goals in 22 matches in the first half of the 2019-20 season for Red Bull Salzburg, with his 6ft 4in frame and sheer power impressing many. 

An £18m move to Borussia Dortmund came in January 2020 and the goals have not stopped since then. 

Erling Haaland is the last winner of the prize after scoring 41 goals for Dortmund last season

Erling Haaland is the last winner of the prize after scoring 41 goals for Dortmund last season

Erling Haaland is the last winner of the prize after scoring 41 goals for Dortmund last season

The Norwegian has scored 70 goals in 69 appearances for the Bundesliga side since then and is one of, if not the, most sought-after striker in world football. 

Haaland himself will admit that he can improve. After all, he has only managed to fire Dortmund to one German Cup in the past two years and the Ruhr-land club look no closer to toppling Bayern Munich at the top of the table. 

Meanwhile, Haaland’s goal record for Norway – 12 goals in 15 games – is impressive but they missed out on qualification for both Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup.  


Source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.