The Golden Boy award is one of the most significant football awards to recognise the best young talents globally. The award is presented by Tuttosport, which had its first appearance in 2003.
The best players under the age of 21 are selected each season for consideration at the end of the season.
What criteria is used to select the winner of the Golden Boy award? A vote from over 30 sports journalists from all over Europe is used to present the winner.
Since its inception in 2003, some of the most outstanding players like Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé, Sergio Aguero, and Raphael van der Vaart have won.
Golden Boy winners list
Gavi – Barcelona – (2022)
Gavi had an impressive season with Barcelona, despite debate whether Jude Bellingham or Jamal Musiala should have won the award instead of the young Spanish footballer.
However, the vote from the journalist showed Gavi was the best player and thus should be awarded the top award.
Pedri – Barcelona (2021)
One of the outstanding players from the FC Barcelona youth ranks, Pedri was able to earn a place in the first team and the Spanish national team. He has been likened to the natural successor to Andreas Iniesta.
Despite 2021 being only his debut year in professional football, he managed to claim a commanding role in Barcelona’s first team and helped the Spanish Men’s National team to reach the semi-finals of the European Football Championship.
Erling Haaland – Borussia Dortmund (2020)
A rare consistent natural goal scorer who is capable of shooting and scoring with almost hundred percent accuracy, Haaland won the award at last after battling for the price with Atletico Madrid’s João Felix the previous year.
Haaland’s incredible form at Borussia Dortmund is yet to be seen. In the 2019–2020 season, he scored 13 Bundesliga and 10 UEFA Champions League goals for Borussia Dortmund.
João Felix – Atlético Madrid/ Benfica – (2019)
João Felix was the talk of the town in Europe following an outstanding performance for Benfica. The Portuguese forward was the killer machine that helped The Eagles lift the 2018–19 Primeira Liga title and was awarded the Primeira Liga’s Best Young Player that Year.
He also won the UEFA Nations League with the Portuguese Men’s National Team that year. The hype in the Portuguese league led to Atlético Madrid splashing a club record fee of €126m for his services which ranked him among the most expensive signings.
Matthijs de Ligt – Ajax (2018)
Ajax sensation Matthijs de Ligt took Europe by surprise with his transformation from a regular centre-back at Ajax to one of the most outstanding players on the continent. The Dutch star was among Ajax’s next gens that took the club as far as getting to the Champions League semi-finals.
Matthijs de Ligt was outstanding at Juventus and remains one of the most sought-after players even though he plays for Bayern Munich these days. His award did not come as a surprise. It was a well-deserved achievement of the Dutch defender.
Kylian Mbappé – AS Monaco (2017)
Dubbed as the French player of the future and a member of AS Monaco’s Golden generation of the 2021 season. Mbappé rose to the occasion by helping Monaco to reach the Champions League semi-finals.
Since then, Mbappé has moved to PSG, becoming one of the best strikers in world football.
Renato Sanches – Benfica/ Bayern Munich (2016)
Sanches thrived in the Portuguese Liga Pro and quickly became a spotlight in the team when his performance helped the Portuguese Men’s National team to win the European Football Championship.
He was exceptional in the colours of Benfica and Portugal’s football team before moving to Bundesliga, where he joined Bayern Munich. Although his time at Bayern was a bit rocky, he’s remained relevant on the biggest stage.
Anthony Martial – Monaco/Manchester United (2015)
Anthony Martial was the rave of the moment following his impressive performance at Monaco. The Frenchman was one of the most consistent forwards.
Raheem Sterling – Liverpool (2014)
Raheem Sterling rose to fame following his exploits at Liverpool. The Englishman could be the decisive factor when it was needed. Switching to Manchester City, he kept up with the expectations before moving on to Chelsea, where he remains a key player in the team.
Paul Pogba – Juventus (2013)
Paul Pogba’s involvement in Juventus’s success in both the domestic scene and Europe paved the way for his recognition on the world stage. The French midfielder formed a productive midfielder for Juventus, leading to his record move to Manchester United.
United splashed a club record fee of €105m to bring the midfielder to Old Trafford.
Isco – Malaga (2012)
Isco Alarcón took Europe by surprise with his outstanding performance for Malaga. The Spaniard was exceptional in the squad that got to the Champions League semi-finals.
This performance subsequently led to his switch to Real Madrid, where he quickly established himself in the first team. Although at some point, his role was limited, he continued to be at his best.
Mario Gotze – Borussia Dortmund – (2011)
Mario Götze was one of the brightest stars at Borussia Dortmund, who had the Yellow Wall smiling whenever he was on the pitch.
For German football fans, his name would always be on the cards for them as he scored the winning goal that gave the World Cup trophy in 2014 at the expense of Argentina.
Mario Balotelli, Inter Milan/Manchester City (2010)
Mario Balotelli is one of the household names in world football due to his style of play and character on and off the pitch. The Italian was at his peak at Inter Milan and subsequently moved to Manchester City.
He remains one of the most talked about footballers on the European continent.
Alexandre Pato – AC Milan (2009)
Alexandre Pato was one of AC Milan’s next-generation players that became the club’s main arsenal from 2009 to 2011. He was part of Brazil’s Men’s National team that won the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and competed in Copa America.
Anderson – Manchester United (2008)
An outstanding player loved by many, especially Manchester United faithful, Anderson was a resilient and productive midfielder who helped the club to lift the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup.
Anderson made a mark that may not be forgotten by most United followers who knew his contributions despite his failure to keep up with the steam.
Sergio Aguero – Atletico Madrid (2007)
Aguero rose to fame following his exploits at the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, where he emerged as the tournament’s top scorer with six goals.
Sergio Aguero’s unstoppable form made him be recognised as one of the best talents in Spanish La Liga.
Cesc Fabregas – Arsenal (2006)
Fabregas established himself as a first-team player in a manner many did not expect despite his age. The Spaniard contributed much to Arsenal before heading out to other teams like Barcelona, Chelsea and AS Monaco.
Lionel Messi – Barcelona (2005)
The Golden Boy award of 2005 was Lionel Messi’s most significant honour in world football after bursting into the scene. That year, he won La Liga and the FIFA World Youth Championship.
He was promoted from Barcelona’s academy into the first team and became the club’s greatest.
Wayne Rooney – Everton/ Manchester United – (2004)
Rooney’s contribution to the English Men’s National team in the European Championship in 2004 earned him the prestigious award.
Rafael van der Vaart – Ajax (2003)
Rafael van der Vaart was the first to be named the winner of the Golden Boy award. He was primarily known for his playmaking skills and was compared to some of the greatest players in his position.