What is the Golden Boy award? The prestigious prize for Europe’s best Under-21 player

The Golden Boy award is given by sports journalists to the most impressive young footballer in Europe over a calendar year.

There have been several hall-of-fame level recipients of the prize, such as Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero, so it’s held in high regard.

What is the Golden Boy award?

The prize was established by Italian sports newspaper Tuttosport in 2003, with Ajax starlet Rafael van der Vaart taking home the inaugural trophy.

The rules are simple. All nominees must be under the age of 21 and play in one of Europe’s top five leagues: currently the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A or Ligue 1.

Therefore, the award effectively names the brightest young talent in world football, with the difficulty of playing in a top European league at such a young age taken into account.

How is the Golden Boy award decided and who votes?

The winner of the award is determined by a vote. Each voter will allocate 10 points to the player they deem most impressive, with 7 for second, 5 for third, 3 for fourth and 1 for fifth.

Voters will be sports journalists from a host of Europe’s most well-respected newspapers, including Bild (Germany), l’Equipe (France) and Marca (Spain).

When is the Golden Boy trophy awarded?

A shortlist of players is comprised every year around October with the award ceremony typically taking place in November.

Erling Haalnad is the most recent winner

Erling Haalnad is the most recent winner

The 2020 shortlist and awarding of the trophy was postponed until a month later than usual, as Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland came out on top.

Past winners of Golden Boy Award

Year NameCountry
2003Rafael van der VaartNetherlands
2004Wayne RooneyEngland
2005Lionel MessiArgentina
2006Cesc FabregasSpain
2007Sergio AgueroArgentina
2009Alexandre PatoBrazil
2010Mario BalotelliItaly
2011Mario GotzeGermany
2013Paul PogbaFrance
2014Raheem SterlingEngland
2015Anthony Martial France
2016Renato Sanches Portugal
2017Kylian Mbappe France
2018Matthijs de LigtNetherlands
2019Joao FelixPortugal
2020Erling HaalandNorway

As with most awards, the forward players tend to take centre stage, yet Matthijs de Ligt became the first defender to win in 2018 after a series of stellar performances in Ajax’s fairytale Champions League run.

Additionally, there has never been a goalkeeper to finish in first place.

France have produced the most winners (three), while there has never been a Belgian winner, despite their recent golden generation.