sport news After Pedri won the Golden Boy Award - what happened to the rest of the winners ...

sport news After Pedri won the Golden Boy Award - what happened to the rest of the winners ...
sport news After Pedri won the Golden Boy Award - what happened to the rest of the winners ...

They say you shouldn't big up young players too much. Unless you're the very best, in which case you are given high-profile prizes such as the Golden Boy Award.

The annual honour crowning the best European player under the age of 21 is a hotly-contested award. A list of 100 names is whittled down to 60, then 40, then 20 before the eventual winner is announced.

This year's prize has gone to Barcelona's 18-year-old midfielder Pedri - and what a year he has had. After breaking into the Barca team, he turned out over 50 times for the LaLiga giants last term before taking Spain to the Euro 2020 semi-finals and the Olympic Games gold medal match. 

Barcelona wonderkid Pedri was named as the European Golden Boy winner for 2021

Barcelona wonderkid Pedri was named as the European Golden Boy winner for 2021

Sportsmail looks at what happened to the previous winners of the under-21 football gong...

Sportsmail looks at what happened to the previous winners of the under-21 football gong...

But how well have the previous winners of the Golden Boy done after winning the prize? There is certainly a wide range of fates for those who have been deemed the best young player in Europe over the years.

For example, Golden Boy winners have gone on to score in the last two World Cup finals, while some have barely made the grade and their careers are petering out in minor leagues.

With Pedri set to find out which road he will go down, Sportsmail looks at what happened to all of the Golden Boy winners since the award was founded 18 years ago...

2003 - Rafael van der Vaart (Holland)

The first winner of the award went to Rafael van der Vaart in 2003, who was already making strides in Dutch football at the time.

The Ajax midfielder was presented with the award having already broken into the Dutch national team two years earlier, while he also scored 22 goals in the 2002-03 season for his club.

Rafael van der Vaart (holding trophy, right) won the first Golden Boy prize back in 2003

Rafael van der Vaart (holding trophy, right) won the first Golden Boy prize back in 2003

Despite the Golden Boy award elevating his status in the European game, Van der Vaart's next career move was to German club Hamburg for £5million in 2005, where he continued his rise in the Bundesliga.

His dream move came three years later when he joined Real Madrid, though he was only really used as an impact substitute at the Santiago Bernabeu. After two seasons and 73 games for Los Blancos, Van der Vaart joined Spurs where he became a cult hero at White Hart Lane. 

The Dutch attacking midfielder was Spurs' top goalscorer with 13 in his first season as they reached the Champions League quarter-finals but finished fifth in the league. He would spend two more years at the club after that before ending his career at Real Betis, then Danish clubs FC Midtjylland and Esbjerg fB. 

Van der Vaart had a stellar career for Holland, Real Madrid and Spurs in the Premier League

Van der Vaart had a stellar career for Holland, Real Madrid and Spurs in the Premier League

Van der Vaart now works as a TV pundit and is also a professional darts player for the BDO

Van der Vaart now works as a TV pundit and is also a professional darts player for the BDO

Van der Vaart was probably best known for his impact on the international scene, playing in five international tournaments for the Netherlands, including two World Cups.  The midfielder played 109 times for the Oranje and is their fourth most-capped player of all time. 

Van der Vaart retired from the game in 2018 but is still involved in sports, somewhat bizarrely, having joined the British Darts Organisation a year later.

He also works as a controversial TV pundit where he has clashed with the Spanish national team and Thibaut Courtois in recent months. 

2004 - Wayne Rooney (England)

Wayne Rooney announced himself to the world in 2004, mainly via his heroics in the European Championship for England that year.

The forward had already joined Manchester United for a then club-record £30million fee by the time he became the first English winner of the Golden Boy that calendar year. 

Wayne Rooney rose to stardom in 2004 after a stellar European Championship for England

Wayne Rooney rose to stardom in 2004 after a stellar European Championship for England

Rooney would go on to enjoy a fabulous career at both club and international level, ending his career as Manchester United and England's all-time record goalscorer.

'Wazza' went on to claim five Premier League titles for Sir Alex Ferguson's United, while he also picked up the 2008 Champions League title and was named fifth in the Ballon d'Or race in 2011.  

He left the Red Devils in 2017 with 253 goals in over 550 games for the club with 16 major honours including the 2016 FA Cup in which he captained his side to victory.

Rooney also wore the armband at international level for England but a small regret was that he never managed to win silverware with the Three Lions - and failed to score in his first two World Cups for his country due to ill-timed injuries.

Rooney is Man United and England's record goalscorer and won the Champions League

Rooney is Man United and England's record goalscorer and won the Champions League

The striker did manage to net 53 goals for England though, more than any other player in the country's international history.

Rooney was also a cult hero at boyhood club Everton where he started and ended his Premier League career, while he also turned out for DC United in the MLS and Championship club Derby County, who he now manages.  

2005 - Lionel Messi (Argentina)

This boy did well, didn't he?

Lionel Messi has had such an incredible career that his 2005 Golden Boy victory looks tiny in comparison to what the Argentine has won during his career. 

Lionel Messi is the other Barcelona star to have won the Golden Boy prize before Pedri

Lionel Messi is the other Barcelona star to have won the Golden Boy prize before Pedri

The attacker had only played around a dozen first-team games for Barcelona when he won the Golden Boy award 16 years ago - but whoever saw enough talent there has certainly been proved right. 

Messi has gone on to become one of the greatest players of all-time and has gone on to win six Ballon d'Or Awards during his career.

His 672 goals in his 17 seasons at Barcelona helped the club win 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions League trophies, with Messi picking up 35 major honours with the Catalans before his shock free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain this season.

Messi scored 672 goals for Barcelona and is now turning out for Paris Saint-Germain in France

Messi scored 672 goals for Barcelona and is now turning out for Paris Saint-Germain in France

Messi did not have as much success at international level as, even though the forward has 80 goals in 158 caps for his country, he failed to win a trophy with Argentina until the Copa America earlier this year. 

Messi's career may be coming to an end but he still manages to dazzle us at the age of 34. He is without doubt the most successful Golden Boy winner there will ever be. 

2006 - Cesc Fabregas (Spain)

Cesc Fabregas had just led Arsenal to the Champions League final when he was presented with the Golden Boy award in 2006. 

Having been deemed Europe's best young player under Arsene Wenger's stewardship, it is perhaps a great shame that he never lifted a trophy again with the Gunners after claiming that individual gong. 

Golden Boy winner Cesc Fabregas helped Arsenal to the Champions League final in 2006

Golden Boy winner Cesc Fabregas helped Arsenal to the Champions League final in 2006

A run of 57 goals and 96 assists in 300 Arsenal games came to an end in 2011 when he moved to boyhood club Barcelona for £35m, where he won LaLiga, Copa del Rey and Club World Cup titles at the Nou Camp along with the Spanish and UEFA Super Cups. 

After three years in Barcelona, Fabregas made a shock return to Chelsea where he won two Premier League titles and the FA Cup and Carabao Cup trophies under Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte.

Fabregas also was part of a Spanish national team who won the 2010 World Cup and the European Championship titles in 2008 and 2012, with the midfielder setting up Andres Iniesta for the winning goal in the biggest game of them all.

Fabregas won league titles with Barcelona and Chelsea along with the World Cup with Spain

Fabregas won league titles with Barcelona and Chelsea along with the World Cup with Spain

The midfielder, who was known for his creativity and eye for a precise pass, is in the twilight of his career at Monaco at the moment but is looking towards management when his career ends. 

2007 - Sergio Aguero (Argentina)

Sergio Aguero had only just moved to Europe when he was named the continent's best young player in 2007, having joined Atletico Madrid from Independiente.

The Argentine became a big hit in the Spanish capital, scoring 102 goals in 234 matches as Los Colchoneros won the Europa League and the Super Cup in 2010.

But it was at Manchester City where Aguero really mark his mark on the game. 

Sergio Aguero was at Atletico Madrid when he won the Golden Boy prize back in 2007

Sergio Aguero was at Atletico Madrid when he won the Golden Boy prize back in 2007

He ended his decade-long spell as the Premier League club's all-time record goalscorer with 260 goals in 390 matches, winning five Premier League titles, one FA Cup and six League Cup trophies. 

Aguero was also responsible for one of the greatest Premier League moments of all-time when the striker netted a last-gasp winner against QPR to gift City its first Premier League title in 2012 in the most dramatic of circumstances. 

The forward has suffered from career heartbreak too. He lost the 2014 World Cup final with Argentina to Germany while he was also beaten in his final ever City match - this year's Champions League final defeat to Chelsea. 

The Argentine won five Premier League titles in a decade-long spell at Manchester City

The Argentine won five Premier League titles in a decade-long spell at Manchester City

But at international level he has enjoyed great success, winning the FIFA Under-20 title twice with Argentina alongside an Olympic Gold medal in Beijing 2008 and this year's Copa America trophy alongside Messi.

It looks as though Aguero's career is currently in serious doubt after the forward went off with heart palpitations in his full Barcelona debut this month. If it is the end, what a career it has been for him.  

2008 - Anderson (Brazil)

We're now reaching the part of the list where the next few Golden Boy winners didn't quite reach their potential.

Manchester United midfielder Anderson had quite a calendar year in 2008 at Old Trafford. The Brazilian won the Premier League title that year, picked up the Champions League trophy as well while he also claimed an Olympic bronze medal with his country.

Anderson was tipped for big things when he was at Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United

Anderson was tipped for big things when he was at Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United

Sadly for the midfielder, it did not get much better after he was presented with the Golden Boy award at the end of that year. 

He won three more league titles at Old Trafford but his game time reduced every season, which cost him his place in the Brazil national team squad. 

Michael Owen, who played with Anderson at Old Trafford, described the midfielder as 'very talented' but hit out at his work-rate, injury record and inability to be flexible in his positioning. 

After leaving United in 2015, Anderson went back to Brazil where he turned out for Internacional and Coritiba, before ending his career at Turkish minnows Adana Demirspor, where he is now working as an assistant manager.   

The Brazilian midfielder suffered from injuries in his career which halted his progress

The Brazilian midfielder suffered from injuries in his career which halted his progress

2009 - Alexandre Pato (Brazil)

Known for his pace and clinical finishing, Alexandre Pato was making great strides at AC Milan when the Golden Boy Award had his name on it in 2009.

It looked like the Brazilian was an excellent pick for the prize too a few years later, when he hit a third successive Serie A double-digit goal tally between 2008 and 2011.

The 2010-11 season is undoubtedly the high point of his career, where he was part of an electric front three with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho - who all scored 14 league goals that term to win the Rossoneri the Scudetto.

Alexandre Pato helped AC Milan to their last Serie A title after winning the Golden Boy prize

Alexandre Pato helped AC Milan to their last Serie A title after winning the Golden Boy prize

That remains Milan's last Serie A trophy but it also represents Pato's final stellar club moment in his career. The Brazilian then struggled with injuries for his final two years at Milan and has since spent the majority of his club career away from Europe.

A move to Corinthians saw him regain some form but it was never enough to bring him back to the elite level. A cameo loan spell at Chelsea saw him score one Premier League goal in two matches but six months at Villarreal showed he was far from the level that many predicted him to reach.

Pato still turned out for Brazil until 2013 and his Selecao record of 10 goals in 27 matches is not too shabby. 

But the forward has spent the last four years playing in China, Brazil and now the United States with Orlando City, though he has barely turned out for the MLS franchise this season. 

The Brazilian (right) is now playing in the MLS with Orlando City after a disappointing career

The Brazilian (right) is now playing in the MLS with Orlando City after a disappointing career

2010 - Mario Balotelli (Italy)

Ah Mario, what could have been. 

The Italian striker was the rising wonderkid when Inter Milan won the treble under Jose Mourinho in 2010, which rightly earned him the Golden Boy award that year.

A move to Manchester City a year later billed him as one of the most exciting young talents to reach the Premier League in years  - but that proved to be the case mainly with his off-field antics.

Mario Balotelli helped Inter Milan win the treble under Jose Mourinho back in 2010

Mario Balotelli helped Inter Milan win the treble under Jose Mourinho back in 2010

A 2011 move to Manchester City was filled with controversial moments for the Italian (left)

A 2011 move to Manchester City was filled with controversial moments for the Italian (left)

Whether it be costly and needless red cards,

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