The nominations for the 2023 Golden Boy have been announced, an accolade handed to the best player aged 21 or under across Europe’s major leagues.
Jude Bellingham is the favourite to be crowned winner of the illustrious accolade, but the Real Madrid midfielder faces competition from a number of names on a star-studded 25 player shortlist.
There are four Premier League players included among the nominees, with each of Brighton’s Evan Ferguson, Chelsea’s Levi Colwill, Manchester United’s Rasmus Højlund and Bournemouth full-back Milos Kerkez having caught the eye with their performances across the last 12 months.
Ahead of the unveiling of the latest Golden Boy winner on December 4th, we’ve remembered every Premier League player to claim the award.
Remembering every Premier League Golden Boy winner:
Wayne Rooney – Everton/Manchester United (2004)
Wayne Rooney became the second ever winner of the award with the teenage sensation recognised as the best u-21 player in Europe in 2004.
Rooney had emerged as English football’s most exciting talent at Everton, scoring a stunning Premier League goal against Arsenal aged just 16, before becoming England’s youngest debutant and goalscorer across the following seasons.
— UEFA EURO 2024 (@EURO2024) May 27, 2021
Rooney announced his arrival as a superstar on the world stage at the 2004 European Championship, as the 18-year-old scored four goals during England’s run to the quarter-finals. Manchester United won the race to sign the teenager that summer, agreeing a £25.6 million deal to bring the forward to Old Trafford.
A broken foot suffered in England’s European Championship exit delayed his debut, but Rooney made an immediate impact with a Champions League hat-trick against Fenerbahce on his first Manchester United appearance. A star had well and truly been born.
Cesc Fabregas – Arsenal (2006)
Cesc Fabregas won the accolade in 2006, after a campaign which saw the teenager take a central role in the Arsenal midfield. Fabregas had made his debut for the Gunners aged just 16, before taking on added responsibility following the departure of club legend and captain Patrick Vieira in 2005.
The 2005/06 season saw Fabregas make 50 appearances in all competitions and the Spaniard was an influential presence as Arsenal reached the Champions League final for the first time.
He scored one and set up another in the quarter-final win over Juventus, and earned inclusion in the UEFA Team of the Year. Fabregas won the first of an eventual 110 caps for Spain that year, becoming the nation’s youngest debutant in 70 years and earning a place in the 2006 FIFA World Cup squad.
Anderson – Manchester United (2008)
Manchester United spent around £26m to sign Anderson from FC Porto in 2007, moving quickly to snap up the midfielder after an exciting first full season in Portugal.
Anderson’s first season in English football saw Manchester United win a Premier League and Champions League double, with the Brazilian converting his spot-kick in the penalty shootout win against Chelsea in the latter final.
He made 38 appearances and impressed with his box-to-box influence in midfield, but failed to fulfil his potential across eight injury-hit seasons at Old Trafford. He averaged just 13 league appearances per season for the Red Devils, before retiring aged just 31 after spells in Italy, Turkey and Brazil after leaving the club.
Mario Balotelli – Inter Milan/Manchester City (2010)
Mario Balotelli’s career has had more colourful moments than we care to remember, including his award of the 2010 Golden Boy.
The Italian striker was then one of football’s best prospects after scoring 28 goals in 86 games for Inter Milan, form which earned him a £24m move to big-spending Manchester City.
He won the 2010 Golden Boy ahead of Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere and received the award in true Balotelli fashion.
“What’s his name? Wil … ? No, I don’t know him, but the next time I play against Arsenal I will keep a close eye on him,” Balotelli said. “Perhaps I can show him the Golden Boy trophy and remind him that I won it.”
— Manchester City (@ManCity) December 28, 2021
Balotelli then took aim at the award’s past winners, including Rooney, Fabregas and Sergio Aguero, insisting only Lionel Messi was ahead of him among the past recipients.
“There’s only one that is a little stronger than me: Messi. All the others are behind me.
“I am delighted to receive the award, but who should have won it but me? My aim is that this prize will transform itself into the Ballon d’Or. To have won this award is a good omen to achieve that.”
Spoiler: The Ballon d’Or never arrived, in a career of unfulfilled potential.
Raheem Sterling – Liverpool (2014)
Raheem Sterling’s role in Liverpool’s 2013/14 title challenge saw him recognised as the Golden Boy, becoming just the second Englishman to have won the award.
Sterling scored 11 goals in all competitions as Liverpool came agonisingly close to the title, with Brendan Rodgers’ free-scoring side pipped at the post by Manchester City.
Sterling had formed an electric understanding with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in attack, while he was part of the England team that travelled to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.
He spent just one further season at Liverpool before departing for Manchester City in a £49m move, where the winger would win four Premier League titles among his 10 major honours at the Etihad.
Anthony Martial – Monaco/Manchester United (2015)
Anthony Martial became the most expensive teenager of all time when signing for Manchester United for an initial fee of £36m, with add-ons potentially taking the sum to £57.6m.
Martial had scored 12 goals during a breakout season at AS Monaco, form which persuaded United to spend big on the Frenchman and earned him the 2015 Golden Boy award.
He started superbly in English football with a stunning solo goal on debut against Liverpool, and ended his first Premier League campaign with 17 goals in all competitions.
Martial, however, failed to live up to those early expectations, with eight seasons at Manchester United having seen promising periods punctuated by inconsistent and ineffective displays.
He has scored 89 goals in 307 games for the Red Devils, but has never truly looked like becoming one of Europe’s best.