Where every Golden Boy winner is now, including Mario Balotelli, Man Utd flop and ex-Swansea ace who passed to an advert

MANY of football’s Golden Boy winners have gone on to achieve great things.

However, winning the gong provides no guarantee of having a stellar career.

Erling Haaland won the award in 2020

AP:Associated PressFootball maverick Mario Balotelli is Italy’s one and only winner[/caption]

From future Ballon d’Or and World Cup winners to bad-boys and stars whose careers were curtailed by injuries, the winners of the award represent both the good and bad side of professional football.

England star Jude Bellingham is among the front-runners for the 2023 award.

Despite sensational backing by Taylor Swift’s army of superfans, the award is no shoe-in for Real Madrid‘s latest superstar.

There will stiff competition from the likes of Jamal Musiala, Alejandro Balde and Gavi – who won the 2022 award.

But how have their predecessors got on after winning the award.

SunSport has taken a look at each winner of the award since its inception in 2003.


FORMER Tottenham ace Rafael van der Vaart won the first-ever Golden Boy award all the way back in 2003.

The then 20-year-old had already established himself in Holland with Ajax, having already won the double with the club in 2002.

Van der Vaart would go on to play for the likes of Real Madrid, Spurs and Real Betis, Midtjylland and Esbjerg throughout his career.

Having won 109-caps for the Netherlands, since retiring in 2019 he has dabbled in pro darts and is a regular pundit on Dutch TV.


WAYNE ROONEY exploded onto the footballing scene with a screamer against Arsenal and continued to haunt opposition defences for another decade.

Rooney won the Golden Boy award in the same season as his transfer from Everton to Manchester United at the age of 20.

With the Red Devils he became the face of English football, becoming United’s and England’s all-time leading goalscorer while completing a clean sweep of trophies before returning to the Toffees in 2017.

After hanging up his boots Rooney went into management, taking over a cash-strapped Derby before joining D.C. United in Major League Soccer.


AFPIt is perhaps safe to say Lionel Messi more than lived up to his Golden Boy billing[/caption]

AT just 18 years old it was clear to see Lionel Messi had something different to his peers. And he has gone to have a career like no other footballer.

The Argentine carved his legacy into European football after 18 trophy-laden years with Barcelona, a time which saw score 672 goals and win 35 trophies.

After leaving the Spanish giants Messi headed to Paris Saint-Germain where he continued to excel despite falling out with the club’s hierarchy, which eventually led to him joining MLS side Inter Miami.

Messi also enjoyed spearheaded Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar in 2022. He already has a record seven Ballon d’Or’s to his name and could add to it when the 2023 ceremony rolls around.


ARSENAL star Cesc Fabregas had the world at his feet at the age of 19.

The Spanish maestro already had a number of fans in Spain from his time in Barcelona’s Academy before he headed to London to join Arsenal.

Fabregas went on to become the club’s captain before re-signing for Barcelona in 2011. But things did not go all according to plan, leading to him joining Chelsea where he finally got his hands on the Prem title.

He later joined Monaco before hanging up his boots at Italian side Como, where he is an investor with fellow Gunners and Barca legend Thierry Henry.


MANCHESTER CITY legend Sergio Aguero was terrorising defences in Argentina and Spain long before he was scoring the most dramatic goal in Premier League history to win City the title in 2012.

In 2007 the Argentine ace won the Golden Boy award aged just 19 when he was at Atletico Madrid.

Aguero joined Man City in 2011 and went on to become the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, become England’s all-time leading scorer from overseas and claim the record for most Prem hat-tricks with 12.

After 260 goals in a City shirt, he joined Barcelona in 2021. But just four games into his career at the Camp Nou he was forced to retire aged 33 due to a heart condition.


GettyAnderson was the first player to disappoint after winning the award[/caption]

THE ex-Man Utd midfielder is the first player who really failed to establish himself at the top of the game after winning the Golden Boy award in 2008.

Having joined Man Utd in 2007, the exciting Brazilian was never able to truly make his mark.

He eventually left Old Trafford permanently in 2015, heading home to play for Internacional and later Coritiba and Turkish side Adana Demirspor.

Anderson retired in 2020 and now works as an assistant manager of Demirspor.


IF you asked a football fan what player had a “what if” career, a large number of them would point to Alexandre Pato.

Pato, then at AC Milan, had the world on the edge of their seats when he won the Golden Boy award in 2009 aged just 20.

However, injuries curtailed the Brazilian forward’s career, and he soon found himself back home after seeing his European fairytale collapse.

He had a brief loan spell with Chelsea in 2016, but now plays for Sao Paulo following stints in China and the USA.


BAD-BOY Mario Balotelli never seemed to disappoint at the start of his career which had seen him obliterate opposition defences for Inter Milan and Man City.

The Italian maverick won the Golden Boy award in 2010 and remains his nations one and only winner.

However, his off-field antics and a lack of form on it saw his career nosedive.

“Super Mario” now plays his football in Switzerland with Sion, but has had spells with seven clubs across in France, Italy and Turkey before landing at his current destination.


THE football gods seemed to be smiling on Mario Gotze throughout the early 2010s.

Gotze was the shining bright of German football at Borussia Dortmund when he lifted the 2011 Golden Boy award aged 19.

In 2014 Gotze netted the most important goal of his career as he scored the winner in the World Cup final.

But a lack of fitness for one reason or another derailed his career, with Gotze now a reserve with Eintracht Frankfurt.

2012 – ISCO

AFPIsco was Spain’s first winner since 2006[/caption]

ISCO brought the Golden Boy winner back to Spain for the first time since 2006 when he lifted the award while turning out for Malaga aged 20.

He went on to join Real Madrid in 2013, where he stayed for nine years.

His spell there saw him become a key part of Zinedine Zidane‘s unprecedented three-peat Champions League victors.

However, he fell out of favour at the Bernabeu by 2022. He then joined Sevilla and now plays for Real Betis after a deal to join Union Berlin collapsed at the last minute.


HAVING quit Man Utd for Juventus in 2012, Red Devils fans were kicking themselves when he won the Golden Boy award in 2013.

But in 2016 he returned to Old Trafford for a then club-record £89million transfer.

However, inconsistent form and the volatile state Man Utd have experienced since Alex Ferguson’s departure turned a dream return into nightmare fuel by the time he headed back to Juventus in 2022.

Pogba has been beset by injuries since returning and is facing a four-year ban after being provisionally suspended for failing a drug test after allegedly testing positive for testosterone.


RAHEEM STERLING became the first Englishman for over a decade to win the Golden Boy award in 2014.

Sterling has terrified Premier League defences for over a decade at Liverpool, Man City and now Chelsea.

He has also been a star on the International scene, being named England’s player of the tournament at Euro 2020.

Once an exciting but raw talent, Sterling has now transformed to be the star to spearhead and guide Chelsea’s fledgling new attack brimming with young talent.


Getty – ContributorAnthony Martial struggled to consolidate his bright career start[/caption]

FRENCHMAN Anthony Martial started his career brightly.

His exploits at Monaco convinced Man Utd to splash a huge fee on him as he won the Golden Boy award in 2015.

Martial instantly endeared himself at Old Trafford with a stunning debut goal against Liverpool.

But injuries and poor form have long-since seen the novelty wear off, and he seems destined to leave United in the not-so distant future.


RENATO SANCHES had world football stunned after delivering a brilliant performance in Portugal‘s winning Euro 2016 run.

But things soon turned sour after a move to Bayern Munich and a horror loan to Swansea.

He managed to revitalise his career at Lille before being poached by PSG.

Sanches now finds himself on loan at Roma under Jose Mourinho.


AP:Associated PressKylian Mbappe has had a meteoric rise since winning the Golden Boy award[/caption]

ARGUABLY the most exciting Golden Boy winner since Messi, Kylian Mbappe has forged a non-stop path to the top of world football.

The Frenchman has already netted 248 club career goals and is spearheading a golden generation of French football talent.

Having already won the World Cup in 2018, Mbappe then became the first player since Sir Geoff Hurst to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final in Qatar, but ultimately saw his nation beaten by Argentina.

Mbappe has been at loggerheads with PSG’s hierarchy and appears destined to be a free agent next summer, with the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool and Chelsea all eyeing a mega-transfer for him.


ONE of the star’s of Erik ten Hag‘s 2018/19 Ajax team, Matthijs de Ligt became the first defender ever to win the Golden Boy award in 2018.

Before leaving Dutch football behind he was seemingly being headhunted by every top team in world football.

He would eventually join Juventus, but things didn’t go according to plan and he was flogged to Bayern Munich after just three years.

Following a promising start under Julian Nagelsmann, the arrival of Thomas Tuchel saw De Ligt dropped to the bench.


ANOTHER star from Benfica, Joao Felix landed the gong in 2019.

This helped to convince Atletico Madrid to splash a club-record fee of £108m on Joao Felix.

However, a fallout with manager Diego Simeone saw Felix loaned to Chelsea in the second half of the 2022/23 season.

He now turns out for Barcelona after sealing another loan transfer.


THE first Golden Boy winner to be born in the new millennium, Erling Haaland looks set to challenge Kylian Mbappe for the title of the best footballer of the 2020s.

The Norwegian bagged the award while still with Borussia Dortmund after scoring 86 goals in 89 games.

He then joined Man City and obliterated any notion of being flop by breaking the Premier League goalscoring record in his first season.

He also helped City to win an English team’s first continental treble since Man Utd in 1999.

2021 – PEDRI

GettyPedri lifted the award in 2021[/caption]

BARCELONA midfielder Pedri represents the future of the Spanish giants.

After losing Messi thanks to their crippling financial woes, Pedri has stepped into the void under the wing of club legend Xavi.

He has already appeared 111 times for Barca.

Pedri is has also established himself as a regular in the Spanish national team set-up.

2022 – GAVI

THE latest winner of the award, Gavi has followed in Pedri footsteps in establishing himself both at Barcelona and with Spain.

He signed a new contract in June 2023 with a stunning €1billion (£860m) release clause.

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