Golden Boy in football is the award given to the best under-21 player who is plying his trade in Europe. The nominees of this prestigious individual award have to impress during a calendar year, which means two halves of two seasons. They must also be playing in Europe’s top-tier nations.
The Golden Boy award was introduced by the Italian newspaper Tuttosport in 2003. Rafael van der Vaart won the first-ever Golden Boy award after impressing with Dutch giants Ajax at the time. Barcelona midfielder Pedri is the latest recipient of the honour and he is the first Barcelona player to win the Golden Boy award since Lionel Messi won it in 2005.
How is the Golden Boy chosen?
The winner of this honour is announced by a jury consisting of sports journalists from Bild (Germany), Blick (Switzerland), A Bola (Portugal), L'Equipe and France Football (France), Marca and Mundo Deportivo (Spain), Ta Nea (Greece), Sport Express (Russia), De Telegraaf (Netherlands) and The Times (United Kingdom).
Each juror is asked to nominate five players and points are allocated as per the order. For example, 10 points are awarded for the player they put first on their list, 7 points for second, 5 for third, 3 for fourth and 1 point for the fifth player.
Note that a player can only win the Golden Boy award once to ensure other youngsters get a chance as well. So if a player wins the award as a teenager, as was the case with Kylian Mbappe, he can no longer be in the reckoning to win the award again the following year despite being under-21 and playing in Europe’s top leagues.
Golden Boy winners list
|2003||Rafael van der Vaart||Ajax|
|2004||Wayne Rooney||Everton and Manchester United|
|2007||Sergio Aguero||Atletico Madrid|
|2010||Mario Balotelli||Inter and Manchester City|
|2011||Mario Gotze||Borussia Dortmund|
|2015||Anthony Martial||Monaco and Manchester United|
|2016||Renato Sanches||Benfica and Bayern Munich|
|2017||Kylian Mbappe||Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain|
|2018||Matthijs de Ligt||Ajax|
|2019||Joao Felix||Benfica and Atletico Madrid|
|2020||Erling Haaland||Borussia Dortmund|
Interestingly, five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo never won the Golden Boy award. His team, Manchester United, however, are the club with the most winners, with Wayne Rooney (2004), Anderson (2008) and Anthony Martial (2015) winning the honour.
Meanwhile, France has produced the most number of Golden Boy winners (3). Furthermore, since its inception, as many as 10 forwards have been bestowed the honour followed by eight midfielders and only one defender.
In 2018, former Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt became the first and only defender till date to be named the Golden Boy.
Featured photo: AFP / Jorge Guerrero