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Successes and failures of the 17 Golden Boy winners including Mario Gotze

In October, the shortlist for the 2020 Golden Boy award was unveiled.

The list features five Englishmen: Mason Greenwood, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Jadon Sancho.

Yet among the favourites are Erling Haaland, who has scored 27 goals in 29 games for Borussia Dortmund in 2020, and Alphonso Davies, who played a key role in Bayern Munich’s treble-winning season and established himself as one of the premier left-backs in world football.

The award has been handed out every year since 2003 and many of the recipients have become global stars and won an array of trophies.

Yet some have failed to live up to their early potential and have slowly fallen off the radar of many supporters.

So here, Daily Star Sport details the varied careers of every former Golden Boy winner.

2003 – Rafael van der Vaart

The first-ever winner of the Golden Boy award, Van der Vaart rose to prominence with 18 goals in 21 Eredivisie games for Ajax in the 2002/03 season.

He was 20 when he received the accolade but truly arrived on the world stage when he moved from Hamburg to Real Madrid in 2008.

He only spent two seasons in Madrid, unable to earn a consistent starting role at the club, before moving to Tottenham in 2010. There he formed a brilliant partnership with Peter Crouch and in his two full campaigns at White Hart Lane, he scored 24 goals and provided 15 assists.

Van der Vaart then returned to Hamburg in 2012 before ending his career in Denmark, retiring in November 2018. By the time he hung up his boots, he won two Eredivisie titles, one Danish league title and made more than 100 appearances for the Netherlands.

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2004 – Wayne Rooney

After scoring nine goals in the 2003/04 season as an 18-year-old, Rooney signed with Manchester United in the 2004 summer transfer window. That was the same summer that he broke out on the international stage at the 2004 European Championships.

Rooney struck four goals, one fewer than Golden Boot winner Milan Baros, and was named to the Team of the Tournament. He was subsequently awarded the Golden Boy award at the end of the year.

The striker remained at United for the majority of his career, ending his time at Old Trafford with a club-record 253 goals in 559 games. During his 13 years with the club, he won five Premier League titles, one FA Cup, four league cups, one Champions League and one Europa League.

Rooney returned to Everton in 2017, before moving to D.C. United in the MLS. In January 2020, he signed with Championship side Derby County where he remains.

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2005 – Lionel Messi

The man who many consider to be the greatest player of the modern era, Messi has certainly lived up to the expectations of being a Golden Boy winner.

The Barcelona star has remained at the Camp Nou throughout his career. In 741 games for Barcelona, he has scored 640 goals. He also has 140 international caps for Argentina, scoring 71 times.

Messi has been awarded the Ballon d’Or six times, more than any other player in history. He was also named the best player in the world four years in a row from 2009 to 2012.

He is the record scorer for Barcelona, the Argentina national team, and La Liga. And in 2012, he broke Gerd Muller’s record for the most goals in a calendar year with 91.

With Barcelona, Messi has won 10 La Liga titles, six Spanish Cups, and four Champions Leagues.

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2006 – Cesc Fabregas

Fabregas won the Golden Boy award in 2006 after breaking into Arsenal’s central midfield and leading them to the Champions League final, where they lost to Barcelona.

The Spaniard became a key figure under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, providing 46 Premier League assists across four years. He was named Arsenal’s Player of the Season in three of those four seasons.

He then returned to Barcelona, his boyhood club, in 2011 and won La Liga two years later. But Fabregas was never a regular starter and signed with Chelsea in 2014.

At Stamford Bridge, he won two Premier League titles, including an 18-assist season in 2014/15 under Jose Mourinho, before leaving for Monaco in 2018.

Internationally, he has 115 caps, has won two European Championships (2008 and 2012) and a World Cup in 2010.

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2007 – Sergio Aguero

Manchester City’s record goalscorer, Aguero continues to light up the Premier League with his electric speed and ruthless finishing.

The Argentine was named the 2007 Golden Boy thanks to his performances with Atletico Madrid, for whom he struck 19 La Liga goals in 2007/08 aged just 19.

He remained with Atleti for another three years, scoring 21, 19 and 27 goals respectively.

Aguero signed with City in 2011 and scored 23 goals in his first season in Manchester. He has since gone on to break the club’s scoring record with 255 goals in all competitions.

During his near-decade with the club, Aguero has won four league titles, one FA Cup and five League Cups. He also won the Europa League with Atletico in 2009/10.

Internationally, he won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics with Argentina’s Under-23s team, clinched two Under-20 World Cups in 2005 and 2007, and has made 97 appearances for the senior side, scoring 41 goals.

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2008 – Anderson

After making 38 appearances in the 2007/08 season for Manchester United, Anderson was named the 2008 Golden Boy. However, that was the only season in which he played more than 19 Premier League games.

The Brazilian midfielder struggled with injuries throughout his time at Old Trafford and infrequently showed glimpses of his talent. But, for the most part, he was a squad player for Sir Alex Ferguson despite spending eight seasons at Old Trafford.

He won four league titles, a Champions League, and two League Cups while with United, but departed in 2015 and joined Brazilian side Internacional.

He made 88 appearances in two years for the club, but in 2017 joined Coritiba before returning to Europe with Turkish side Adana Demirspor.

He retired in September 2019 aged just 31 and is now an assistant coach with Demirspor.

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2009 – Alexandre Pato

Scoring 27 goals across the 2008/09 and 2009/10 seasons, Pato broke onto the scene as the next great Brazilian striker. Sadly, he never delivered on that potential.

Pato remained with AC Milan until 2013 but only once did he score more than five goals in a season after 2010.

Returning to Brazil with Corinthians in 2013, Pato spent three years in his native country, scoring 33 goals in that time.

He then played two matches for Chelsea in the 2015/16 season, scoring once during his loan spell, before moving to Villareal, where he stayed one season before transferring to China. In two seasons in the Far East, he scored 30 goals in 37 games.

Pato returned to Brazil in 2019 with Sao Paulo, but agreed to terminate his contract in August and is currently without a club.

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2010 – Mario Balotelli

Balotelli was named the 2010 Golden Boy during his emergence at Inter Milan.

By 2011, he was plying his trade in the Premier League, joining up with former manager Roberto Mancini, who heralded him as “one of the best players of his age in Europe.”

Balotelli, though, was a problematic character, and while he scored several brilliant goals, one of which led to his iconic “Why Always Me?” celebration in the Manchester derby, he was ultimately too hot to handle.

The Italian international spent two-and-a-half seasons in Manchester before returning to the San Siro, but this time with AC Milan, not Inter. He scored 12 goals in 13 Serie A games to close out the 2012/13 campaign, but was again troublesome off the pitch.

He then spent one season with Liverpool in 2014/15, scoring just four goals, before being loaned back to Milan.

In 2016, Balotelli moved to Nice and scored 43 goals across his first two seasons with the French side. He then fell out with the club, spent six months at Marseille, one year with Brescia in Serie A, and is now without a club.

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2011 – Mario Gotze

Perhaps one of the more heartbreaking Golden Boy stories, Gotze was scintillating for Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund in the early 2010s.

He was a central piece of the Dortmund team that won the Bundesliga in 2010/11 and 2011/12 and was seemingly destined for greatness when he moved to Bayern Munich in 2013.

However, across three years with Bayern, Gotze made only 114 appearances in all competitions due to a metabolic disorder called myopathy, though this was not discovered until 2017.

Gotze returned to Dortmund in 2016, but again struggled with injuries and weight gain due to his illness. This summer, he signed with PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands. He has played six times in all competitions this season.

Across his club career, the man who was dubbed “The German Messi” won five German league titles, four German Cups, and was named the Bundesliga Young Player of the Season in 2010/11.

Internationally, Gotze is most famous for scoring the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final. He was 22 at the time but never reached such heights again.

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2012 – Isco

Spanish creator Isco was named the 2012 Golden Boy after shining for Malaga in La Liga and Spain at the Under-20 World Cup in 2011. He spent one more year with Malaga, scoring nine goals, before moving to Real Madrid in 2013.

Since signing with Madrid, Isco has never held down a regular starting role. Only once has he made more than 25 league starts but despite this, he has 50 goals and 47 assists in all competitions.

Isco has, however, been supremely successful from a team perspective. He was a part of all four Champions League victories in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018. He has also won two La Liga titles and one Spanish cup.

Isco remains with Madrid but has started just three of Madrid’s eight La Liga games this season.

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2013 – Paul Pogba

After controversially leaving Manchester United amid concerns that he was not being given enough playing time for Juventus, Pogba quickly set about proving he was ready for senior football.

He made 35 appearances in 2012/13, his first season in Juventus, and was subsequently named the Golden Boy.

Pogba then spent three seasons with the Old Lady and in every campaign he featured 45 times or more in all competitions, was named in the Serie A Team of the Year, and won the league title. He also played in one Champions League final, losing to Barcelona in 2015.

In 2016, Pogba moved back to Manchester United in what was the most-expensive transfer of all time (£89.3 million)

He has spent four seasons at Old Trafford, the majority of which have been frustrating. He did win the Europa League in 2017, in which he was named the competition’s best player, and was named to the PFA Team of the Year in 2018/19.

Internationally, Pogba’s greatest achievement came in 2018 when he lifted the World Cup with France, forming a brilliant midfield partnership with N’Golo Kante.

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2014 – Raheem Sterling

Sterling broke onto the scene for Liverpool during the 2013/14 season. He was named the club’s Young Player of the Season for two years in a row and earned the Golden Boy award in between them.

In 2015, he controversially signed with Manchester City and has since elevated his game under Pep Guardiola, who followed the year after.

In 2016/17, Guardiola’s first year at the Etihad, Sterling provided seven goals and eight assists. The next season, he increased those numbers to 18 goals and 11 assists, leading City to the title, before then emulating that with 17 goals and nine assists in another title-winning season.

Last term, Sterling scored 20 league goals, the highest tally of his career, but City lost out on the title to the team he left five years earlier.

In all, Sterling has won two league titles, one FA Cup, and four League Cups.

In 2018/19, Sterling was named the PFA Young Player of the Year and the FWA Footballer of the Year. He was also named to the PFA Team of the Year. He has 55 international caps for England, scoring nine goals.

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2015 – Anthony Martial

Signing for Manchester United six months before he was named Golden Boy in 2015, Martial exploded onto the world scene with 28 goals across two seasons at Monaco and United. He seemed destined for greatness, but has never quite fulfilled his potential at Old Trafford.

In the following three seasons, he never once topped 20 Premier League starts and only averaged 10 goals per season in all competitions.

However, in his fifth campaign at United, Martial began to perform as expected. He scored 17 goals after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer moved him into a centre-forward position.

During his time at Old Trafford, Martial has won one FA Cup, one League Cup, and one Europa League. In 2019/20, he was named Manchester United’s Player of the Season.

Internationally, Martial has just 23 caps. He missed the 2018 World Cup triumph, however.

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2016 – Renato Sanches

Sanches secured a move to Bayern Munich six months before his Golden Boy victory, which was secured after making 12 appearances for the Portuguese national team, winning the European Championships in the process, and breaking through into the Benfica side at 18.

Sanches, though, struggled to make an impact in Munich. Lothar Matthaus named him as one of the three-worst players in the Bundesliga after his first season at the club.

Sanches then spent a disastrous season on-loan at Swansea City, where he made just 15 appearances in all competitions and did not play a game after January 2.

He then returned to Bayern but failed to make an impact in his third term in Germany, transferring to Lille in 2019 where he remains.

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2017 – Kylian Mbappe

Perhaps the most exciting young talent to emerge in the past decade, Mbappe didn’t take long to justify his Golden Boy victory.

The Frenchman won the award in 2017, six months after he moved to Paris Saint-Germain from Monaco, becoming the most expensive teenager in history.

Six months later, he was scoring a goal in the World Cup final – only the second teenager to do so after Pele – and lifted the trophy with France.

After three years at PSG, Mbappe has been named Ligue 1 top goalscorer twice, won the Ligue 1 Player of the Season award once, and played in a Champions League final. He has scored 90 goals in 124 games and has won the league title on three occasions.

Mbappe already has four league titles to his name, alongside two Coupe de Frances, and a fourth place in the Ballon d’Or. He is 21 years old.

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2018 – Matthijs de Ligt

Off the back of Ajax’s brilliant performances in the Champions League, which ended with an agonising defeat to Spurs in the semi-finals, de Ligt became the first-ever defender to win the Golden Boy award in 2018.

At just 19 years old, he was already Ajax captain, and became the first teenager to lead a team in the knockout stage of the Champions League against Real Madrid in February 2019. Two weeks later, he became the youngest Ajax player to reach 100 appearances for the club.

At the end of the 2018/19 season, de Ligt was named the Dutch Footballer of the Year, included in the Eredivisie Team of the Year for the second successive season, winning his first league title, and was named in the UEFA Team of the Year for 2019.

In 2019, he transferred to Juventus. De Ligt won Serie A in his first season with the club, making 39 appearances in all competitions.

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2019 – Joao Felix

After scoring 20 goals in all competitions in the 2018/19 season, Felix signed with Atletico Madrid for £113 million, the second-highest fee paid for a teenager in history.

Six months later, he was named the 2019 Golden Boy. Felix, however, underwhelmed in his first season at Wanda Metropolitano, scoring only nine goals in 36 appearances in all competitions.

So far this term, the Portuguese international has impressed, with seven goals and two assists in 10 games in all competitions. He continues to build confidence as Atletico’s chief attacking threat alongside Luis Suarez and Diego Costa.

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