AND the winner is…
Barcelona star Pedri has beaten the likes of Man United wonderkid Mason Greenwood to the the 2021 Golden Boy following a 20-man strong shortlist.
Greenwood had been in blistering form for the Red Devils but lost out to Spain international Pedri, who has become a standout star for both club and country
Greenwood was one of three England aces who had been nominated, with Arsenal star Bukayo Saka receiving a second nod in a row and Jude Bellingham also getting recognised for his impressive performances for Borussia Dortmund.
Other notable talents in the running were Barcelona’s Gavi and Real Madrid midfielder Eduardo Camavinga.
Down the years, the likes of Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney have got their hands on the trophy, as well as some underwhelming names like Anderson and Alexandre Pato.
Even more incredibly Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard and Neymar have all failed in their bid to win it.
But who are the other previous winners of the award since its 2003 inception? Take a look below…
2003 – RAFAEL VAN DER VAART
THEN at Ajax, 20-year-old Van der Vaart was already an established star in Holland – with three full seasons under his belt.
The 109-cap Holland legend went to play for Hamburg, Real Madrid and Tottenham, as well as Real Betis, Midtjylland and Esbjerg.
Since retiring, Van der Vaart has dabbled in professional darts – making his BDO debut in 2019.
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2004 – WAYNE ROONEY
AFTER exploding on to the scene in 2002-03 with Everton – with that goal against Arsenal – Rooney earned a move to Manchester United that summer.
After winning the award around his 20th birthday, Rooney went on to win 120 caps for England, become the nation’s all-time leading scorer, while adding five Premier League titles and one Champions League crown, scoring 306 career goals.
Rooney is now coach at cash-strapped Derby after the sacking of boss Phillip Cocu.
2005 – LIONEL MESSI
ONLY 18-years-old at the time, Messi exploded on to the scene with Barcelona only a year earlier.
The Argentine legend has become arguably the greatest player of all time, scoring 672 goals in 778 club games, as well as 80 Argentina goals from 156 games.
Messi also won ten LaLiga titles, four Champions League crowns – as well as a world-record SIX Ballons d’Or, amongst many, many other accolades.
Now, he is at PSG after falling out with Barcelona hierarchy.
2006 – CESC FABREGAS
THEN at Arsenal, Fabregas was 19-years-old when he was given the nod.
The Spaniard went on to star for Barcelona and Chelesa before heading to Monaco – where he now plays – with three league crowns to his name, in all.
2007 – SERGIO AGUERO
A MANCHESTER CITY legend, Aguero was at Atletico Madrid, aged 19, when he bagged the award.
Aguero went on to win five titles at City, including the dramatic winner as the club won their first-ever Premier League crown in 2011-12 on the final day of the season.
Now, he’s at Barcelona for a new challenge.
2008 – ANDERSON
THE list’s first true flop, Anderson had joined Man Utd in 2007, thought to be an exciting young winger.
But issues with form and fitness saw him transition into becoming a wildly underwhelming central midfielder.
After leaving United in 2015, Anderson turned out for Internacional and Adana Demirspor in the Turkish second tier.
2009 – ALEXANDRE PATO
ANOTHER ‘future superstar’ who never quite became that, Pato was on fire as a 20-year-old at AC Milan, having just scored 15 Serie A goals in 2008-09.
But injuries and a lack of form saw him move back to Brazil, before an ill-fated loan stint at Chelsea preceded time at Villarreal Tianjin Quanjian and Sao Paulo.
At 32, Pato is playing in the MLS for Orlando City.
2010 – MARIO BALOTELLI
AFTER three red-hot years at Inter Milan, “Super Mario” bagged his move to Man City in the summer of 2010 before winning the Golden Boy award.
But things never quite panned out for Balotelli as lack of form on the pitch and a series of controversies off it saw him become something of a journeyman.
Süper Lig club Adana Demirspor are now trying to get a tune out of the erratic Italian.
2011 – MARIO GOTZE
THEN only 19-years-old, Gotze was being tipped for a bright future at Borussia Dortmund – and even earned a move to Bayern Munich in 2013.
But a spate of injuries and a freak illness threatened to derail his career, as a return to Dortmund saw Gotze get back on track – even getting back into the Germany squad.
Gotze is now at PSV Eindhoven after being released by the Bundesliga giants.
2012 – ISCO
AFTER swapping Valencia for Malaga, Isco instantly became a sensation in Spain, earning himself the Golden Boy award in 2012, aged 20.
He earned a move to Real Madrid a year later, but while featuring 214 times in LaLiga across seven years, many believe he would have earned far more individual success elsewhere.
2013 – PAUL POGBA
POGBA quit Old Trafford in 2012 with just three Premier League appearances under his belt – instantly becoming a hit at Juventus.
The Frenchman quickly became one of the best and most dynamic midfielders in the world, becoming the most-expensive player in the world three years after his Golden Boy win as he rejoined United in an £89m deal.
Pogba is still at Man Utd but is rumoured to be unhappy with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
He played a huge role as France won the 2018 World Cup.
2014 – RAHEEM STERLING
FROM talented star at Liverpool to one of the best players in the world at present, it’s been a meteoric rise for Sterling.
The England ace won the award aged 19 and would join Man City the following summer – where he has won three Premier League titles.
However, he has struggled to make Pep Guardiola’s first eleven in recent weeks – with rumours of a move away intensifying.
2015 – ANTHONY MARTIAL
THE now-Man Utd star swapped Lyon for Monaco in 2013 and quickly became a key squad member as they rose to the top of French football.
Another star to see his career stall a tad at Old Trafford, Martial has been unable to score with any regularity.
2016 – RENATO SANCHES
AFTER impressing for Benfica in 2015-16, Sanches was called up to Portugal’s squad for Euro 2016 – and the midfielder starred as they stunned Europe to win the title.
Sanches, still only 23, earned himself a move to Bayern Munich – but his career hit a brick wall and was even sent on an atrocious loan spell at Swansea.
The Portuguese flop is now at Lille where he has managed to rebuild his career.
2017 – KYLIAN MBAPPE
THE France wonderkid had just joined Paris Saint-Germain from Monaco when the Golden Boy committee came knocking.
Since making that move permanent in 2018, he has won three Ligue 1 crowns as well as the World Cup in that run, scoring 138 goals for the French club.
The forward is a target for Real Madrid and Liverpool.
2018 – MATTHIJS DE LIGT
DE LIGT was in phenomenal form in 2018-19 as Ajax reached the semi-finals of the Champions League – but even before that stellar run, De Ligt was awarded the Golden Boy award.
His form saw seemingly every club in the world after him, with Juventus winning the race.
Despite his big-money move, De Ligt has struggled to replicate his top form in 30 Serie A games, despite Juve winning the league in his first season.
2019 – JOAO FELIX
THE Portuguese ace starred at Benfica in the 2018-19 season, ultimately leading to him winning the Golden Boy gong.
In the same year, Felix made his mega-money move to Atletico Madrid, where he found his feet after a tricky start to life in LaLiga.
Felix has scored 11 goals in 34 LaLiga games and has won his first 13 caps for Portugal – scoring three times – since 2019.
2020 – ERLING HAALAND
LAST year it was Norwegian powerhouse Haaland who was victorious as the Golden Boy.
The most wanted footballer in the world showed his worth for Borussia Dortmund by plundering 41 goals in as many games for the German giants.
The son of Leeds United favourite Alf-Inge Håland is destined to be a legend in the game, and has been linked with moves to all the world’s top clubs.
2021 – PEDRI
BARCELONA may be suffering financially, as well as still recovering from the bitter blow of losing Lionel Messi.
But with club legend Xavi returning as manager, fans have even more reasons to be optimistic after Pedri was crowned Golden Boy for 2021.
The playmaker starred for Barcelona in his first season last term, playing an incredible 52 times.
Pedri also only made his Spain debut at the start of 2021 but has gone on to secure an amazing TEN caps already, nailing his place in the starting XI during Euro 2020.
Source: Soccer - thesun.co.uk