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Golden Boy Award: All you need to know

Barcelona and Spain sensation Gavi is the current holder of the Golden Boy award and was felicitated with the achievement for his performance in 2022.

Young talents bursting onto the scene and making the stage their own is always an incredible sight in football. These talents become the future of the sport and watching them grow from innocuous and talented teenagers to world-beaters is always delightful.

The Golden Boy award felicitates the best young talents in football every year. Let’s discuss more about it:

Golden Boy Award: Who is it awarded to and how did it begin?

YearWinnerNationClub(s)PositionBirth year
2003Rafael van der VaartThe NetherlandsAjaxMidfielder1983
2004Wayne RooneyEnglandEverton, Manchester UnitedForward1985
2005Lionel MessiArgentinaBarcelonaForward1987
2006Cesc FàbregasSpainArsenalMidfielder1987
2007Sergio AgüeroArgentinaAtlético MadridForward1988
2008AndersonBrazilManchester UnitedMidfielder1988
2009Alexandre PatoBrazilMilanForward1989
2010Mario BalotelliItalyInter Milan, Manchester CityForward1990
2011Mario GötzeGermanyBorussia DortmundMidfielder1992
2013Paul PogbaFranceJuventusMidfielder1993
2014Raheem SterlingEnglandLiverpoolForward1994
2015Anthony MartialFranceMonaco, Manchester UnitedForward1995
2016Renato SanchesPortugalBenfica, Bayern MunichMidfielder1997
2017Kylian MbappéFranceMonaco, Paris Saint-GermainForward1998
2018Matthijs de LigtThe NetherlandsAjaxDefender1999
2019João FélixPortugalBenficaForward1999
2020Erling HaalandNorwayBorussia DortmundForward2000

The Golden Boy award is given to the best young talent playing in Europe under the age of 21. The nominees are selected over the course of their performances during a year, that is the two halves of two distinct seasons in Europe. All nominees must be under the age of 21 and playing in one of Europe’s top five divisions. These talents are often called ‘wonderkids’.

The Golden boy award was first established by the Italian sports newspaper called Tuttosport in 2003. Ajax and Netherlands’ Rafael Van der Vaart became the very first recipient of the award that year and he was followed by Wayne Rooney in 2004. Legendary figures like Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Aguero, and Kylian Mbappe have won the Golden Boy award in their careers.

Spain sensation Gavi is the latest winner of the Golden Boy and he joined his Barcelona clubmate Pedri who won the previous year.

Traditionally, Golden Boy winners can only be crowned once which means that if a player has already won it, he cannot be nominated for another Golden Boy award. This was done to ensure that attention can also be shared with other young players who deserve to be highlighted.

The Golden Boy award winner is actually decided by a vote. Each voter is required to allocate 10 points to the player they deem the most impressive over a calendar year, with 7 for second, 5 for third, 3 for fourth, and 1 for fifth.

The voting panel comprises sports journalists from some of the most respected newspapers in Europe including Bild (Germany), L’Equipe and France Football (France), The Times (United Kingdom) and Marca and Mundo Deportivo (Spain).

Golden Boy award winners: By Country

Spain42006, 2012, 2021, 2022
France32013, 2015, 2017
The Netherlands22003, 2018
England22004, 2014
Argentina22005, 2007
Brazil22008, 2009
Portugal22016, 2019

Rafael Van der Vaart, Ajax | 2003

Creative midfielder Rafael Van der Vaart was the first ever recipient of the Golden Boy award. He won the award in 2003 despite repeated injury issues hampering his game time at boyhood club Ajax as well as the Dutch national team.

Wayne Rooney, Everton/Manchester United | 2004

When Wayne Rooney won the Golden Boy award in 2004, he had already made the move from Everton after Manchester United made him the most expensive teenage signing in England. The 18-year-old’s impressive performances with England in Euro 2004 put him on top of the list of candidates that year.

Lionel Messi, Barcelona | 2005

Of course, Lionel Messi had to be on this list. One of the greatest footballers in history, Messi was also one of the most impressive teenagers in world football and his ridiculous talent was already apparent from a very young age. The Golden Boy award was probably the first major individual award in the illustrious career of the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner but it wasn’t his last.

Also Read: How many Guinness World Records does Messi have?

Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal | 2006

Despite being just 19 years old when he won the Golden Boy award in 2006, Cesc Fabregas had already become a crucial component of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side and had made his official debut three years earlier. He had arrived at the Emirates from Barcelona’s La Masia academy and he would also soon take the captain’s armband for the Premier League giants.

Sergio Aguero, Atletico Madrid | 2007

Sergio Aguero had burst onto the scene as a prolific teenager at Independiente in Argentina. Therefore, there were plenty of expectations when he made his move to Europe with Atletico Madrid. Aguero was very impressive during his time in Spain and was awarded the Golden Boy winner in 2007.

Anderson, Manchester United | 2008

This might be a surprising name in hindsight but Anderson was one of the most coveted central midfielders in the world when he won the Golden Boy award in 2008. He won the UEFA Champions League with Manchester United in his debut season in 2007.

Alexandre Pato, AC Milan | 2009

Alexandre Pato had come out of the blocks flying and was a thrilling watch during his time as a teenager at Internacional and AC Milan. Unfortunately, he could never live up to the potential he promised as injuries blighted his career.

Mario Balotelli, Inter Milan/Manchester City | 2010

Mario Balotelli was an enigma throughout his career. Therefore, it came as little surprise that he questioned who Jack Wilshere (who finished second in the poll) was when he won the Golden Boy award in 2010. He even went on to belittle every other award winner before him and made his move from Italy to Manchester City that year.

Mario Gotze, Borussia Dortmund | 2011

Mario Gotze was nothing short of sensational during the years he played under Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund. Gotze won the award in 2011. However, his career plateaued after moving to Bayern Munich in 2013. With that being said though, having a World Cup final winning-goal on your CV isn’t too bad, is it?

Isco, Malaga | 2012

Such was the allure of Spain that Isco won the Golden Boy award despite playing for lowly Malaga in 2012. His intricate footwork, ability to retain the ball under pressure, dribbling abilities and fantastic passes captivated the whole of Spain and Malaga even reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League under Manuel Pellegrini that season.

Paul Pogba, Juventus | 2013

Paul Pogba had left Manchester United after failing to break into the first team. He landed at Juventus where he quickly became the most prized midfielder in Europe and the Frenchman won the Golden Boy award in 2013 on the back of his indomitable performances for the Bianconeri. He scored five goals in the league season as Juventus won the Scudetto once again that year.

Raheem Sterling, Liverpool | 2014

Raheem Sterling was only 20 years old when he burst on to the scene as a fresh-faced teenager for Liverpool and impressed fans in England with his silky footwork on the wings. He almost helped the club win the Premier League that season and formed a lethal attacking partnership with senior strikers Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.

Anthony Martial, Monaco/Manchester United | 2015

Anthony Martial made a wonderful start to his footballing career and Manchester United ended up making him the most expensive teenager of all time by signing the 19-year-old from Monaco for an initial £36m despite him only having 14 senior league appearances under his belt. Who can forget his spectacular solo goal against Liverpool in his United debut and Martial went on to be named the Golden Boy only a few months later.

Renato Sanches, Benfica/Bayern Munich | 2016

Renato Sanches was outstanding for Portugal during their Euro 2016 triumph and he quickly became a major player to watch out for. However, an immediate move to Bayern Munich in the wake of his newfound success didn’t pay off and he has struggled to live up to his reputation since then.

Kylian Mbappe, Monaco/Paris Saint-Germain | 2017

Kylian Mbappe hit the ground running at Monaco and scored goals for fun in Ligue 1 and the UEFA Champions League. He was one of the most outstanding teenagers in world football in recent memory and he made a big-money move to Paris Saint-Germain that year and followed it up with a Golden Boy award win. Mbappe also had a memorable time with France as he led Les Bleus to the World Cup trophy just a year later in Russia.

Also Read: Fastest football player in the world

Matthijs de Ligt, Ajax | 2018

Matthijs De Ligt was a treat to watch during his heyday at Ajax. He was the rock at the back for Erik Ten Hag’s side and was the club captain at that tender age. Ajax’s memorable run to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League in 2018/19 will not be forgotten soon and De Ligt played a key role in that campaign.

Joao Felix, Benfica/Atletico Madrid | 2019

Joao Felix was heralded as the new Cristiano Ronaldo when he first started showing his bags of tricks with Benfica in Portugal. Atletico Madrid spent over 100 million euros on him that season to bring him to Spain and Felix was also crowned the Golden Boy.

Erling Haaland, Borussia Dortmund | 2020

He had been pipped by Felix the previous season but Erling Haaland continues to light up defenses across Europe with his predatory scoring instincts. He won the Golden Boy award in 2020 during his time with Borussia Dortmund where he averaged a goal every game.

Pedri, Barcelona | 2021

Pedri went from being an anonymous teenager at La Masia to exploding to become one of the best midfielders in the world, let alone the best young talent, in his debut season with Barcelona in 2020/21. He has been ordained as the natural successor to Andres Iniesta, a comparison also made by his head coach and Iniesta’s partner in crime Xavi. Pedri also had an incredible Euro 2020 campaign with Spain.

Gavi, Barcelona | 2022

Following on the great Barcelona legacy, Gavi joined Pedri and became a Golden Boy award winner at the age of 17. The tenacious and combative midfielder brings a fresh dose of energy and fight to Barcelona and is also extremely talented technically. Gavi has inherited Xavi’s legendary number 6 jersey at the club.


Has Cristiano Ronaldo won the Golden Boy award?

No, Cristiano Ronaldo has never won the Golden Boy award.

Which club has won the most Golden Boy awards?

Barcelona are the club with the most Golden Boy award winners with three winners in Lionel Messi, Pedri, and Gavi. Manchester United have also seen two Golden Boy award winners, although two of them have had to share it with former clubs as well.

How many defenders have won the Golden Boy awards?

Only one defender – Matthijs De Ligt- has won the Golden Boy award since its inception. 10 forwards and nine midfielders have won it during this period.


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