The Golden Boy award, given to Europe’s most impressive footballer in a calendar year under the age of 21 years, has assumed greater significance recently. It has come to such a state that fans see the inclusion of their club’s young stars in the list as a recognition of their potential. Some absolute stars have won the award in the past including Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi while there have been misses too. But the majority of the past winners have had successful careers.
The award was started by Italian newspaper ‘Tuttosport’ in 2003 and is now voted for by journalists from various top European countries.
Manchester United’s teenage starlet Marcus Rashford, Bayern’s Kingsley Coman and Renato Sanches, Tottenham’s Dele Alli are the frontrunners among the 40 nominees for 2016’s Golden Boy award and as such the speculation is rife as to who is going to be Europe’s most precious youngster. Manchester United have had 3 of their players win the award previously – the most for a club so far. As such, let’s take a look how the careers of former winners of the prestigious award shaped up. It is to be noted that no player can win the award twice.
2003 – Rafael van der Vaart (Ajax Amsterdam)
The Dutch midfielder was the first player to win the Golden Boy award in 2003 during his time with Ajax. Though he had a fairly successful career, it can be said that he did not reach the heights his talents deserved to go. He moved to Hamburger SV in Germany in 2005 where he shown with his playmaking skills, attracting interest from various European clubs. Real Madrid poached him in 2008. Though he scored in his club debut, his 2-year spell in Madrid was largely disappointing. Following which, he moved to Tottenham on deadline day in 2010.
His spell at White Hart Lane was impressive but he moved back to Hamburger SV after 2 years. van der Vaart is currently plying his trade at Danish club FC Midtjylland. But the 33-year-old has notched 109 caps for Netherlands and was instrumental in their run to the final of the 2010 World Cup.
2004 – Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
There are no questions regarding the success Wayne Rooney has had in his career after winning the prestigious award. He has been legendary over the years for Manchester United, winning 5 Premier League titles, 1 Champions League, 2 League Cups, 1 FA Cup and 1 Club World Cup among other honours. He has been a talismanic presence in Manchester United’s attack over the years and is 3 goals short of matching Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 249 goals for United. Being just 31-years-old, he is heavily tipped to break that mark.
Rooney is also England’s all-time leading goalscorers though his impressive success with United has not replicated itself on the international stage owing to a variety of factors including injuries. With 53 goals in 115 international caps, Rooney is England's second most-capped player and the current captain. He is certainly an example to follow for future Golden Boy award winners.