What is the Golden Boy award? Shortlist, rules and past winners

FT Desk
  • FT Desk
  • Updated: November 24, 2021, 14:57 CET
  • 5 min read
Pedri, Barcelona, 2021/22

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

There have been many recipients of the prestigious prize who have gone on to have superstar careers, so it is an accolade that is held in high regard.

Who won the Golden Boy award in 2021?

Barcelona midfielder Pedri picked up the Golden Boy award for 2021, dominating the voting.

“Of the forty journalists whose vote represented the most illustrious newspapers of our continent, 24 placed him in first place of their preferences, another nine in second position and three in third,” Xavier Jacobelli, CEO of Tuttosport, which organises the award, revealed.

Golden Boy shortlist for 2021

There were originally 100 players named on the shortlist for the 2021 Golden Boy award by Italian newspaper Tuttosport..

That was then cut to 80, then 60 and then 40 before a final shortlist of 20 was released.

The final Golden Boy Shortlist of 20 included Jude Bellingham, Mason Greenwood, Eduardo Camavinga and Pedri among the notable names.

  • Pedri (Barcelona and Spain)
  • Gavi (Barcelona and Spain)
  • Bryan Gil (Tottenham and Spain)
  • Yeremi Pino (Villarreal and Spain)
  • Karim Adeyemi (Salzburg and Germany)
  • Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich and Germany)
  • Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leveruksen and Germany)
  • Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund and England)
  • Mason Greenwood (Man Utd and England)
  • Bukayo Saka (Arsenal and England)
  • Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid and France)
  • William Saliba (Marseille and France)
  • Daniel Maldini (Milan and Italy)
  • Roberto Piccolo (Atalanta and Italy)
  • Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax and Netherlands)
  • Jurrien Timber (Ajex and Netherlands)
  • Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund and USA)
  • Rodrygo (Real Madrid and Brazil)
  • Nuno Mendes (PSG and Portugal)
  • Charles De Ketelaere (Club Brugge and Belgium)
  • Golden Boy award: Past winners

    Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero are some of the players who won the award as youngsters and went on to become global stars.

    There are some other impressive names among the past victors. Some other winners, though, did not go on to achieve their full potential.

    That makes looking back through Golden Boy history an intriguing topic, with a real mix of names and outcomes proving that bursting onto the scene at a young age is not always a guarantee of long-term success.

    Year NameCountry
    2003Rafael van der VaartNetherlands
    2004Wayne RooneyEngland
    2005Lionel MessiArgentina
    2006Cesc FabregasSpain
    2007Sergio AgueroArgentina
    2008AndersonBrazil
    2009Alexandre PatoBrazil
    2010Mario BalotelliItaly
    2011Mario GotzeGermany
    2012IscoSpain
    2013Paul PogbaFrance
    2014Raheem SterlingEngland
    2015Anthony Martial France
    2016Renato Sanches Portugal
    2017Kylian Mbappe France
    2018Matthijs de LigtNetherlands
    2019Joao FelixPortugal
    2020Erling HaalandNorway
    2021PedriSpain

    As with most awards, the forward players tend to take centre stage, with 10 of the previous 19 winners being attacking stars.

    Matthijs de Ligt became the first defender to win in 2018 after a series of stellar performances in Ajax’s fairytale Champions League run and seven midfielders have also come out on top.

    A goalkeeper has never finished in first place.

    France have produced the most winners (three) - Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial - along with Spain, with Pedri joining Cesc Fabregas and Isco as winners.

    There has never been a winner from Belgium despite their recent golden generation.

    Manchester United are the club who have had the most winners. Three players have triumphed for the Red Devils: Wayne Rooney (2004), Anderson (2008) and Martial (2015). They have a fourth Golden Boy in Pogba, but he was with Juventus when he triumphed in 2013.

    Fascinatingly, Cristiano Ronaldo was never named as European football's Golden Boy.

    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 a European top division, with most past winners coming from the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A or Ligue 1.

    Traditionally, a player can only win the award once, so once Golden Boy status has been achieved, the award ensures attention can move to other young players who deserve to be highlighted.

    This stops, for example, a star 17-year-old winning the award three years on the bounce.

    The award names the player who the jury believes is the brightest young talent in world football.

    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 with the final list of candidates usually available around October and the award ceremony typically taking place in November.