The past winners of the Golden Boy award - where are they now?

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After the 30 nominees for the Ballon d’Or were named this week, everyone has been talking about who will take home the prized accolade.

However, in all the Ballon d’Or discussions, some people might have missed the announcement of the Golden Boy award winner.

This award, organised by Italian outlet Tuttosport, is given to the best player under the age of 21 that is playing his football in Europe. If you don’t know, Bayern Munich’s Renato Sanches claimed this year’s award, ahead of Marcus Rashford and Kingsley Coman.

But just because Sanches has been given the award, does that mean he’s set for greatness?

Well, we’ve taken a look at all of the winners since its inception in 2003 to see if the winners go on to become world-class players - and it’s fair to say the results differ hugely.

2003 - Rafael van der Vaart

Rafael van der Vaart made a name for himself at the famous Ajax academy and progressed to their first-team, helping them to win the title in 2002 and 2004.

He went on to play for Real Madrid and Tottenham but he was never able to sustain his talents at the highest level. He’s since played for Hamburg and Real Betis and now - at the age of 33 - finds himself with Midtjylland in Denmark.

2004 - Wayne Rooney

There was a time when Wayne Rooney was regarded one of the hottest prospects in world football. He shot to fame after Euro 2004, becoming the youngest goalscorer in the tournament’s history when he bagged a brace at 18 against Switzerland.

Twelve years later, he’s been dropped by club and country but he has won five league titles, a Champions League and become England’s top goalscorer in that time.

2005 - Lionel Messi

Well Tuttosport nailed this one, didn't they? Lionel Messi made his Barcelona debut two years previous to collecting this award and they had obviously already seen something special from the Argentine.

Did they know he would go on to become one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, winning five Ballon d’Or’s, eight La Liga titles and four Champions League? Because that's exactly what has happened.

2006 - Cesc Fabregas

Cesc Fabregas left Barcelona for Arsenal early in his career and made his debut for the Gunners at the age of 16. By 19, he was a regular for the first-team and picked up this award as a result. He returned to Barcelona where he played for three years before a return to the Premier League with Chelsea.

2007 - Sergio Aguero

Sergio Aguero was playing first-team football by the age of 15 for Independiente in his native Argentina. He moved to Atletico Madrid in 2006 and won this Golden Boy award a year later.

His move to Manchester City coincided with them winning the league title in 2012 and 2014 and has established himself as one of the best striker in Premier League history.

2008 - Anderson

We’re guessing that Tuttosport had a change in their selection methods in 2008, which lasted three years, because the next three winners are questionable to say the least.

First up is Anderson. The Brazilian joined Manchester United in 2007, arriving with a massive reputation and grabbing the number eight shirt immediately. A year later he picked up this award and was surely set for stardom. But he spent seven disappointing seasons at Old Trafford before being offloaded to International in 2015.

He was recently caught up in controversy for the Brazilian club by punching his teammate in training.

2009 - Alexandre Pato

Alexandre Pato looked set to become one of the world’s best players when he joined AC Milan at 17-years-old in 2007. He scored nine goals in his debut season, 15 in the following campaign and then 12 during the 2009/10 season which won him the Golden Boy award.

The trophy appeared to be a curse for him, though. After he helped Milan win the title in 2011, his career took a downward spiral and was sold to Corinthians in 2013. He’s since had loan spells at Sao Paulo and Chelsea and finds himself in La Liga with Villarreal.

2010 - Mario Balotelli

Completing the hat-trick of players that failed to fulfil their potential is Mario Balotelli. After helping Inter Milan win three consecutive Serie A titles and a Champions League winners medal, Manchester City splashed out on the enigmatic Italian in 2010 - the year he won the Golden Boy award.

Balotelli beat Arsenal's Jack Wilshere to the Golden Boy award in 2010 and said this afterwards:

"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. Perhaps I can show him the Golden Boy trophy and remind him that I won it.”

Balotelli’s performances haven’t quite lived up to his off-field antics as he left City after two-and-a-half seasons to join AC Milan.

He then had a terrible spell a Liverpool before an equally terrible loan spell back at Milan. He’s now firing the goals in at French side Nice.

2011 - Mario Gotze

Mario Gotze won two Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund in 2011 and 2012 with Jurgen Klopp’s side being the talk of Europe. Therefore, it was little surprise to see him get him hands of the coveted trophy.

He soon moved to Bayern Munich, where he had three underwhelming seasons - despite scoring the winner in the 2014 World Cup final - before an emotional return to Dortmund this summer.

2012 - Isco

Do you think Valencia regret allowing Isco to leave for £5.3 million in 2011? We do. Malaga signed him and he ended up winning the Golden Boy trophy one year later. Real Madrid saw his ability and snapped him up in 2013 for £23 million.

2013 - Paul Pogba

The world’s most expensive footballer won this award back in 2013. Sir Alex Ferguson allowed Paul Pogba to leave Manchester United in 2012 and the Frenchman won this award one year later. Four consecutive titles with Juventus saw United splash £89 million to re-sign him.

2014 - Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling may have been overshadowed by Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge for Liverpool during the 2013/14 season but his performances helped the Reds almost win their first title since 1990.

Manchester City signed him for £49 million in 2015 and he’s starting to fulfil his potential under Pep Guardiola.

2015 - Anthony Martial

When Manchester United spent a potential £58 million on Anthony Martial, a lot of people were asking: ‘Who?’

He finished his debut season at Old Trafford with 17 goals, earning him this trophy. He’s now struggling to get into a Jose Mourinho side.

2016 - Renato Sanches

Manchester United were desperate to sign Sanches, and you can see why. He may have cost Bayern Munich a potential £63 million but he has already helped his country win a major tournament. He may find first-team football hard to come by this season but he looks as though he’s got a bright future ahead of him.

Wayne Rooney
Paul Pogba
Rafael Van der Vaart
Premier League
Mario Gotze
Mario Balotelli
Lionel Messi
Sergio Aguero
Alexandre Pato
Manchester United
UEFA Champions League
Francesc Fabregas
Raheem Sterling

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