It’s about that time of the season when, under normal circumstances, players would start turning their attention to individual awards.
Virgil van Dijk and Kevin De Bruyne were going toe-to-toe for PFA Player of the Year when the season was postponed.
Van Dijk’s Liverpool teammate, Trent Alexander-Arnold, was expected to join him on the podium as Young Player of the Year.
For young players, the accolade can bring a huge amount of expectation.
A player of Alexander-Arnold’s calibre shouldn’t find that too much of a problem. The 21-year-old is already a European champion, after all.
However, since the Premier League began, its Young Players of the Year haven’t always fared so well.
A total of 24 different players have won the award so far and while most have gone on to achieve big things in their careers, others haven’t been so lucky.
Let’s take a look at what happened next.
Ryan Giggs (1992/93)
We kick off the Premier League era with one of its true greats. Manchester United’s Class of ’92 immediately bore fruit as Giggs scored nine goals and lit up the newly-adapted top flight with his pace. The Welshman got used to that winning feeling as he won the first of his 13 titles that season.
Andy Cole (1993/94)
Newcastle’s young forward scored 34 goals that season and it was a sign of things to come. Unfortunately for the Magpies, he only spent one more season in the north-east before joining Manchester United – and many who he left behind never forgave him.
Robbie Fowler (1994/95 and 1995/96)
Having impressed in his first season, 1994 onwards was when the man nicknamed ‘God’ really made his mark at Anfield. By 1997, injuries began to restrict him to far fewer appearances but he still went on to become their third-highest goalscorer of all time, making a return in 2006/07. He also scored another 39 Premier League goals for Leeds, Manchester City and Cardiff.
David Beckham (1996/97)
The 1996/97 season was Beckham’s best yet. The rising star of English football still became a United legend, though Sir Alex Ferguson might argue he might have become even greater had he not become distracted by his blossoming celebrity lifestyle. The pair eventually fell out and Ferguson famously threw a boot at the midfielder’s head. Beckham ultimately joined Real Madrid in 2003.
Michael Owen (1997/98)
Owen’s goals would reach double figures for the next eight seasons and in 2001, he became the first British player of the modern era to win the Ballon d’Or.
Nicholas Anelka (1998/99)
The striker would earn a reputation as ‘Le Sulk’ throughout his career – maybe that’s why he went on to play for 12 different clubs. One of his best spells came at Arsenal though, where he scored 17 goals in 1998/99 and earned a move to Real Madrid.
Harry Kewell (1999/2000)
Kewell looked quite the young prodigy at Leeds and AC Milan, Chelsea, Barcelona, Arsenal and Manchester United were reportedly all monitoring him. It was his boyhood club, Liverpool, who landed his signature and while he had a decent career on Merseyside, it was disrupted by injury. The Australian left for Galatasaray in 2008 and he finished his career back in his homeland.
Steven Gerrard (2000/01)
It’s strange to think that within four years of winning the award, this fresh-faced midfielder had orchestrated one of the greatest triumphs in Liverpool’s history – the Champions League final comeback against AC Milan in Istanbul. Gerrard won nine major honours and only left in 2015, when he joined LA Galaxy.
Craig Bellamy (2001/02)
Bellamy had Sir Bobby Robson to thank for his early success at Newcastle. But then Graeme Souness arrived and trouble beckoned. The forward was pictured swearing at his manager and was then caught out pretending to be injured to get out of training. Then came a fight with Alan Shearer and Souness set about getting him out of the club. Still, he had a decent enough career after that.
Jermaine Jenas (2002/03)
Jenas’ debut season at Newcastle was brilliant. A little erratic and struggling from injuries, the midfielder could be outstanding on one day, but disappointing on another. That pattern continued when he joined Tottenham in 2005.
Scott Parker (2003/04)
Parker won Young Player of the Year thanks to his displays for two different clubs – Charlton and Chelsea, joining the latter in January of 2004. However, then the Blues began to seriously invest and he found it hard to get games. After that, he had impressive spells with Newcastle, West Ham, Tottenham and Fulham.
Wayne Rooney (2004/05 and 2005/06)
After shining at Euro 2004, Rooney continued to make a name for himself by winning Young Player of the Year in consecutive seasons. He later became club captain and surpassed Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time goalscoring record.
Cristiano Ronaldo (2006/07)
Ronaldo was averaging a goal every other game and within a year, he had won his first Ballon d’Or. It wasn’t until 2009 that he joined Real Madrid. So what’s happened since…Oh, he’s just become one of the greatest footballers of all time.
Cesc Fabregas (2007/08)
Fabregas admittedly needed a little time to adapt to English football. Once he did, his extraordinary vision soon became apparent. Finally, in 2011, he returned to Barcelona but made his way back to the Premier League via Chelsea, where he won two titles.
Ashley Young (2008/09)
Now that Aston Villa side was quality, wasn’t it? Young helped Villa to two sixth-placed finished under Martin O’Neill before joining Manchester United, where he would win the league in 2013.
James Milner (2009/10)
Another indication of how good that Villa side were. Milner’s form in 2009/10 saw him picked up by Manchester City, who paid a handsome £26 million for the England international. Milner won five trophies at the Etihad before joining Liverpool on a free transfer – and adding a Champions League winners’ medal to his collection.
Jack Wilshere (2010/11)
Wilshere’s early achievements are now laced with a tinge of sadness. The season after his award, the Arsenal midfielder’s battles with injury began and his career has been stop-start ever since.
Kyle Walker (2011/12)
After finally getting on track thanks to a loan spell at Aston Villa, Walker broke into the Spurs team and scored his greatest goal for the club with a winner in the north London derby against Arsenal. Under Mauricio Pochettino, he would be transformed into the best right-back in the country before leaving to win two league titles at Manchester City.
Gareth Bale (2012/13)
Bale was on fire that season with 21 goals in 33 games and also won Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year and got himself in Team of the Year. That was the end of it, as far as Spurs were concerned. That summer, he joined Real Madrid in a then-world record deal and went on to win four Champions League titles.
Eden Hazard (2013/14)
Nobody was quite sure whether Hazard would continue to shine after joining from Lille. More fool the doubters. This was the first of the Belgian’s seven spectacular seasons at Stamford Bridge, before he finally got that dream move to the Bernabeu last summer.
Harry Kane (2014/15)
Harry Kane’s breakthrough season at Spurs coincided with Mauricio Pochettino taking charge. Having scored four league goals the previous season, the striker then smashed home 31, including memorable doubles against Chelsea and Arsenal. Kane has never looked back and now has 181 goals for the club – only Jimmy Greaves and Bobby Smith have more.
Dele Alli (2015/16 and 2016/17)
Dele Alli scored 32 goals in his first couple of seasons and had better stats by the age of 21 than the likes of Gerrard and Frank Lampard. Sadly, the playmaker has gone off the boil a little since. Injuries haven’t helped him and while he enjoyed a brief revival when Jose Mourinho was appointed, he’s had a poor season overall.
Leroy Sane (2017/18)
Sane was dazzling during Manchester City’s record-breaking 2017/18 season. The German achieved similar stats the following year too but sadly, then came a cruciate ligament rupture in 2019. That scuppered a likely return to Bayern Munich.
Raheem Sterling (2018/19)
If you overlook the fact that Raheem Sterling is quite demonstrably NOT a ‘young player’, then he deserved his award in 2018/19. The City forward has scored another 20 goals in all competitions this season and has been linked with Real Madrid.
We don’t yet know if the current season will be completed, or if its annual awards will go ahead.
Whether it’s Alexander-Arnold, Jack Grealish, or James Maddison who wins it this time, let’s hope they go on to live up to the hype for the remainder of their careers.
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