The Golden Boy award is one of the most coveted individual honors for young soccer players around the world.
Since its inception in 2003, this award has recognized the brilliance of some of the best upcoming stars in the sport each year. Winning the Golden Boy is a clear sign that a player is destined for soccer superstardom.
The award is presented annually by Italian newspaper Tuttosport to the best performing player under 21 years of age plying their trade in a top-flight European league. Players are judged on their individual performances throughout the calendar year as well as significant honors or titles won with their respective clubs or national teams. Scouts and journalists from various reputed publications vote to determine the most deserving recipient of the prestigious Golden Boy trophy.
Some of the biggest names in modern football have had their talents identified by winning this award in the past.
Way back in 2003, Dutch midfielder Rafael van der Vaart was the inaugural winner of the Golden Boy. Since then, the award winners list reads the likes of global soccer legends - Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Wayne Rooney, Mario Balotelli and Paul Pogba. The latest addition to this elusive list of winners is Real Madrid sensation Jude Bellingham, who just won it this year.
Messi's outstanding debut season with Barcelona saw him become the first player to win both the Golden Boy and Ballon d'Or in the same year back in 2005. He went on to become arguably the greatest player of all time. Another notable Argentine, Sergio Aguero, showcased his precocious talents by clinching the award in 2007. Over a decade later, he now stands as Manchester City's all-time leading goalscorer.
English stars also feature prominently among Golden Boy winners. In 2004, an 18-year old Wayne Rooney announce himself as a special talent by bagging the award. He would go on to become Manchester United and England's record goalscorer. Similarly, Paul Pogba's star turn for Juventus was recognized with the Golden Boy in 2013, a year before his then world-record transfer to Manchester United.
More recently, ones to watch out for include Jude Bellingham, who won it in 2023. At just 20 years of age, the Englishman led Borussia Dortmund to the Bundesliga runner-up spot and became the league's player of the season. He then moved to Real Madrid, where he has been scoring and assisting goals for fun. 2022 winner Gavi has also made a similarly explosive start, becoming Barcelona's youngest ever goalscorer before injuries slowed his rise. Time will tell if these prodigious talents can attain the superstar statuses of past Golden Boy award winners.
In summary, the Golden Boy award continues to unearth the finest young talents in world football each year. For aspiring soccer stars and passionate fans alike, keeping an eye out on who wins this coveted honor is the perfect way to identify the superstars of tomorrow.