The Golden Boy award has been won by the world’s most talented young footballer (in the eyes of sports journalists) in every year since 2003.
Rafael van der Vaart was the inaugural winner back in 2003 and the Dutchman was followed by Wayne Rooney in 2004 and Lionel Messi in 2005.
Since then, other future superstars have landed their hands on the coveted individual accolade including Sergio Aguero, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe.
Back at the beginning of the decade (or the previous decade, depending on when you’re reading this), the 2010 Golden Boy award was won by a certain Mario Balotelli.
He beat second-place Jack Wilshere to the award that year and caused a stir at the time by mocking the Arsenal midfielder. But what happened to all 40 of the nominees for the Golden Boy award that year? Let’s take a look…
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Ribeiro de Souza Andrè Felipe (Dinamo Kiev | Attacker)
Better known as ‘Andre Balada’, the Brazilian signed for Dinamo Kiev in 2010 after shining at Santos and made four appearances for his national team in the same year.
However, the forward failed to live up to expectations and has spent most of his career playing in South America. The 29-year-old currently plies his trade with Gremio.
Mario Balotelli (Manchester City | Attacker)
"What's his name? Wil ... ? No, I don't know him, but the next time I play against Arsenal I will keep a close eye on him," Balotelli said after beating Wilshere to the 2010 Golden Boy award. "Perhaps I can show him the Golden Boy trophy and remind him that I won it."
If only his attitude had been different back then, the Italian may have fulfilled his potential.
While Balotelli has still enjoyed a decent career, it’s hard not to feel that the current Brescia striker could - and should - have achieved so much more in football.
Bebé (Manchester United | Attacker)
Sealing a shock move to Manchester United from Vitoria de Guimaraes in 2010 was seemingly enough to earn the infamous Bebe a nomination for the Golden Boy award.
The Portuguese forward scored two goals in seven games for United before being offloaded to Benfica.
In fairness, Bebe has proved in recent years that he can cut it at the highest level. The 29-year-old’s spells with Eibar and Rayo Vallecano haven’t actually been that bad.
Yacine Brahimi (Rennes | Midfielder)
A highly-rated French youth international at the time, Yacine Brahimi went on to represent the Algerian national team, scoring 11 goals in 49 appearances.
He enjoyed five years with FC Porto in the 2010s before moving to his current club, Al-Rayyan of Qatar, in 2019.
Sergio Canales (Real Madrid | Midfielder)
You might remember that Sergio Canales was widely regarded as a future world-beater during the early-2010s.
He played 15 times for Real Madrid during the 2010/11 campaign before being loaned to Valencia, who signed him on a permanent deal in 2012.
Canales wasn’t able to become the superstar many expected he would, but the Spain international has still done well for Real Sociedad and then Real Betis in recent years.
Diego Contento (Bayern Munich | Defender)
Diego Contento made 69 appearances for Bayern Munich before his move to Bordeaux in 2014.
The left-back spent four seasons in France before moving to German outfit Fortuna Dusseldorf in the summer of 2018. He played for Germany’s Under-20s but has never represented Die Mannschaft at senior level.
Philippe Coutinho (Inter | Attacker)
It may not have worked out for Philippe Coutinho at Barcelona, but the Brazilian playmaker has still been a fantastic player during the 2010s.
He was disappointing at Inter Milan but showed everyone he world-class talent during his five years at Liverpool before sealing a mega-money (up to £142 million) move to the Camp Nou in January 2018.
Coutinho is now in the process of resurrecting his career with Bayern Munich and has rediscovered his form with the Bundesliga giants.
David de Gea (Atletico Madrid | Goalkeeper)
Arguably world football’s most outstanding goalkeeper over the course of the 2010s, David de Gea has exceeded all expectations since joining Manchester United in 2011.
Named United’s Player of the Season in four different years this decade, the Spaniard will be remembered as one of the all-time great ‘keepers when he hangs up his gloves.
Luuk de Jong (Twente | Attacker)
After scoring 59 goals in 120 games for FC Twente, Luuk de Jong was snapped up by Borussia Monchengladbach in 2012.
However, the Dutchman endured a difficult time in the Bundesliga - which continued during a brief loan spell in England with Newcastle - and he was eventually sold to PSV in 2014.
He smashed it with the Dutch side, scoring 112 goals in 2014 games, and is currently trying to find his feet with Sevilla after joining the Spanish club in the summer of 2019.
Nathan Delfouneso (Aston Villa | Attacker)
Aston Villa had high hopes for academy product Nathan Delfouneso, but the former England Under-21 international wasn’t quite good enough for top-level football.
The 28-year-old has spent his career in the Football League since leaving Villa Park in 2014 and been on Blackpool’s books since 2017.
Mattia Destro (Genoa | Attacker)
Mattia Destro has played for the likes of AS Roma and AC Milan (on loan) during the 2010s and has plied his trade with his current club Bologna since 2015.
The 28-year-old has also made eight appearances for Italy, scoring one goal. So, all in all, he hasn’t done too badly.
Douglas Costa (Shakhtar Donetsk | Attacker)
One of the most exciting wingers in European football at his peak, Douglas Costa has lit up football stadiums across the continent with Shakhtar, Bayern Munich and Juventus over the course of the 2010s.
The 29-year-old has won trophies wherever he’s been and has also played 31 times for Brazil, scoring three goals.
Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow | Midfielder)
Russia’s Alan Dzagoev was the joint-top goalscorer at Euro 2012 and has spent his entire career with CSKA Moscow, with whom he’s scored 74 goals and registered 95 assists in 341 appearances.
The gifted midfielder was tipped to join a major European club during the early-2010s but, for whatever reason, it never happened for him.
Christian Eriksen (Ajax | Midfielder)
Christian Eriksen won’t be at Tottenham for much longer if he gets his way, but the Danish playmaker has given the north London outfit seven years of excellent service.
One of European football’s best playmakers, Eriksen has been a star in the Premier League since his arrival from Ajax in 2013.
Mario Gotze (Borussia Dortmund | Midfielder)
Mario Gotze will always be able to tell his grandkids that he scored the winning goal in a World Cup final. Only a handful of footballers in history are able to say that.
The 2014 World Cup final hero was taken to Bayern Munich from Borussia Dortmund in 2013 by Pep Guardiola, who reportedly wanted to make the gifted attacking midfielder his new version of Lionel Messi.
However, Gotze flattered to deceive at the Allianz Arena and ended up rejoining Dortmund with his tail between his legs in 2016.
Eden Hazard (Lille | Midfielder)
After shining at Lille between 2007-2012, Eden Hazard went on to cement his status as one of the world’s best footballers during his seven-year spell at Chelsea.
The world-class Belgian winger sealed a £100 million move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2019 and, despite a slow start at the Bernabeu, certainly has the quality to become the talisman for Los Blancos.
Abel Hernandez (Palermo | Attacker)
Abel Hernandez wasn’t able to become one of Europe’s top strikers, but the Uruguayan hasn’t done too badly for himself since 2010.
He scored 39 goals in 111 games for Hull City before moving to CSKA Moscow in 2018. He currently plays for Al-Ahli SC in Qatar.
Gael Kakuta (Chelsea | Attacker)
Following his controversial transfer from Lens to Chelsea in 2007, the highly-rated Gael Kakuta made his debut for the Blues’ first team a couple of years later.
But after just 16 appearances for the west London outfit, and following a series of disappointing loan spells at various clubs, the DR Congo international was moved to Sevilla in 2015.
In truth, Kakuta has flattered to deceive wherever he’s played and is currently on the books of relegation-threatened French side Amiens.
Bojan Krkic (Barcelona | Attacker)
Who would have predicted at the start of the 2010s that Bojan Krkic would spend most the decade playing for Stoke City? Nobody, that’s who.
Once seen as Barcelona’s most talented youth product, the one-time Spain international spectacularly - and sadly - failed to live up to expectations.
After scoring just 16 goals in 85 games for Stoke, 29-year-old Bojan was moved on to Montreal Impact in the summer of 2019 and is currently managed by Thierry Henry.
Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich | Midfielder)
What a career the midfielder has had.
Toni Kroos has won just about every major team honour you can think of during his illustrious career with Real Madrid and Germany, including three Champions Leagues and, of course, the World Cup.
Adem Ljajic (Fiorentina | Attacker)
Adem Ljajic, who was on the verge of signing for Manchester United at the start of the decade, has played for Fiorentina, AS Roma, Inter Milan, Torino and Besiktas. Not a bad CV, that.
The 28-year-old has also made 45 appearances for Serbia, scoring nine goals.
Romelu Lukaku (Anderlecht | Attacker)
Romelu Lukaku has enjoyed an excellent career so far, despite a difficult couple of years with Manchester United.
The 26-year-old - who has scored goals wherever he’s played - is currently shining at Inter Milan after leaving Old Trafford in the summer of 2019.
Lukaku also boasts a remarkable tally of 52 goals in 84 games for Belgium and is now his country’s all-time leading scorer by a distance.
Federico Macheda (Manchester United | Attacker)
Federico Macheda’s debut just so happened to be the peak of his professional career. It was all downhill for the Italian from that point onwards.
Manchester United fans will always remember his dramatic winning goal against Aston Villa towards the end of the 2008/09 season - and so will he.
Following spells with the likes of Cardiff City and Novara, Macheda seems to have found a home in Panathinaikos, where he’s scored 16 goals in 42 games at the time of writing.
Joel Matip (Schalke 04 | Defender)
Now a Champions League winner with Liverpool, Joel Matip joined the Reds in 2016 after seven years in Schalke’s first team.
The Cameroon international has made over 100 appearances for the Merseyside outfit and has developed into a top defender.
Fran Merida (Atletico Madrid | Midfielder)
Formerly of Arsenal, Fran Merida signed for Atletico Madrid in 2010 but only managed to make 30 appearances for Los Rojiblancos.
The 29-year-old has since played for Hercules, Atletico Paranaense, Huesca and Osasuna but hasn’t become the elite-level central midfielder a lot of people expected he would.
Ezequiel Munoz (Palermo | Defender)
Ezequiel Munoz played for Palermo for five years after joining the Italian club from Boca Juniors in 2010.
The Argentina centre-back, who has also represented Genoa and Leganes during his career, now plays for Lanus back in his home country.
Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal | Defender)
Mateo Musacchio, the Argentina centre-back, played for Villarreal right up until 2017.
He then joined AC Milan and has spent the past few seasons playing for the Serie A giants.
Yann M'Vila (Rennes | Midfielder)
Tipped by many experts to become one of European football’s best defensive midfielders during the 2010s, it never quite happened for Yann M'Vila.
Moving to Rubin Kazan in 2013 was an error on his part, in hindsight, while his loan moves to Inter Milan and Sunderland also failed to pay off.
The France international has played for Saint-Etienne since 2018.
Sotiris Ninis (Panathinaikos | Attacker)
Once labelled the ‘Greek Messi’, living up the hype was always going to be tough for Sotiris Ninis.
He’s played for his country 32 times, scoring three goals, but his club career hasn’t been particularly noteworthy.
The attacking midfielder has been on the books of Israeli side Hapoel Ashkelon since 2018.
Dani Pacheco (Liverpool | Attacker)
After failing to score in 17 appearances for Liverpool, Dani Pacheco was moved on to Alcorcon in the Spanish second tier in 2013.
The former Spain Under-21 international now plays for La Liga side Malaga after joining the Andalusian outfit from Getafe in 2018.
Marcus Pedersen (Vitesse | Attacker)
Marcus Pedersen did well to find himself on the same list as the likes of Hazard, Kroos, De Gea and Coutinho.
The former Norway international, who had a brief spell on loan at Barnsley during the 2013/14 campaign, is currently a free agent after leaving Stromsgodset in 2019.
Miralem Pjanic (Lyon - Midfielder)
Miralem Pjanic is one of European football’s most technically-gifted midfielders and has spent the past four years winning trophies at Juventus.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina international had spent the previous five years with AS Roma.
Rafael (Manchester United | Defender)
Rafael did well at Manchester United, winning three Premier League titles, and is still remembered fondly by the Old Trafford faithful.
Louis van Gaal wasn’t a fan, though, which is why the Brazilian was sold to Lyon in the summer of 2015.
Rafael, now 29, has made over 100 appearances for the French side.
Gaston Ramirez (Bologna | Midfielder)
A decent playmaker but not a great one, Gaston Ramirez was only able to show flashes of brilliance for the likes of Bologna and Southampton.
After a disappointing season with Middlesbrough, the Uruguayan joined Sampdoria in 2017 and has played for the Italian club ever since.
Emmanuel Riviere (Saint-Etienne | Attacker)
Emmanuel Riviere went on to play for Toulouse and AS Monaco before signing for Newcastle in 2014.
He scored just a single Premier League goal in 26 games for the Magpies and was subsequently offloaded to Metz three years later.
Riviera signed for Serie B side Cosenza in the summer of 2019.
James Rodriguez (FC Porto | Attacker)
A hugely talented footballer, James Rodriguez went on to light up the 2014 World Cup with Colombia, winning the Golden Boot award in the process.
His eye-catching performances in Brazil led to a big-money move to Real Madrid, where he’s scored 37 goals in 120 games.
However, he spent the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons on loan at Bayern Munich after falling out of favour at the Bernabeu.
Mamadou Sakho (Paris Saint Germain | Defender)
Mamadou Sakho went on to spent four years at Liverpool but never truly convinced at Anfield.
The French defender has played for Crystal Palace since 2017.
Eduardo Salvio (Benfica | Attacker)
Eduardo Salvio enjoyed eight successful seasons with Benfica, winning five league titles and scoring 62 goals in 266 games.
The Argentina international, who has played for his country 11 times, is now back in his home country playing for Boca Juniors.
André Schurrle (Mainz | Attacker)
André Schurrle is a World Cup winner with Germany, a Premier League winner with Chelsea and a German Cup winner with Wolfsburg - but should he have achieved even more on an individual level?
The 29-year-old is currently on loan at Spartak Moscow from Borussia Dortmund.
Jack Wilshere (Arsenal | Midfielder)
Sadly, it now seems certain that Jack Wilshere will never fulfil the huge potential he showed as a youngster.
Injuries have prevented the England international from becoming one of the world’s best midfielders.
He still plays for West Ham at the time of writing - but it probably won’t be much longer before he’s on the hunt for another club.
All in all, then, this wasn’t a bad shortlist in terms of predicting the stars of tomorrow.
Many of the players featured have gone on to enjoy excellent careers at the highest level.
Not all of them have lived up to expectations - but that’s football. It happens. There are no guarantees.
It’ll be fascinating to see which 40 players make the shortlist for the 2020 Golden Boy award.News Now - Sport News