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What is the Golden Boy award? Final results, rules and past winners for Europe’s best U21 player

Carlo Garganese
Jude Bellingham, Golden Boy 2023
© ProShots

Jude Bellingham has been voted as The Golden Boy for 2023, following up his triumph at the Kopa Trophy.

The Real Madrid star was handed the award in a ceremony in Turin on December 4 after emerging victorious from the 25-man shortlist.

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The Golden Boy award is given to the best young footballer in Europe over a calendar year, and it is voted for by sports journalists across the continent.

READ MORE: Kopa Trophy – The top 10 Under-21 players of 2023

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.

The reigning champion is England international Bellingham following his success in 2023. Barcelona midfielder Gavi won the 2022 award but has been usurped by his Los Blancos rival.

READ MORE: Who won Ballon d’Or 2023? Final results, Kopa Trophy, Yashin Trophy and much more

Golden Boy shortlist for 2023

The 2023 Golden Boy shortlist was cut down to 25 players on 12 October 2023, with the original 100-man shortlist reduced to a quarter of that amount.

The 25 players who were in the running for the 2023 Golden Boy award, before Bellingham won, can be found in the table below.

2023 Golden Boy 25-man shortlist

Player Club
Jude Bellingham Real Madrid
Jamal Musiala Bayern Munich
Xavi Simons RB Leipzig
Antonio Silva Benfica
Alejandro Balde Barcelona
Florian Wirtz Bayer Leverkusen
Benjamin Sesko RB Leipzig
Giorgio Scalvini Atalanta
Rasmus Hojlund Man Utd
Levi Colwill Chelsea
Johan Bakayoko PSV
Milos Kerkez Bournemouth
Arthur Vermeeren Royal Antwerp
Evan Ferguson Brighton
Lucas Gourna-Douath RB Salzburg
Warren Zaire-Emery PSG
Ousmane Diomande Sporting CP
Arnau Martinez Girona
Mathys Tel Bayern Munich
Andy Diouf Lens
Arda Guler Real Madrid
Bilal El Khannouss Genk
Martin Baturina Dinamo Zagreb
Joao Neves Benfica
Lamine Yamal Barcelona

The original 100-man shortlist for the 2023 Golden Boy award was announced on 20 June 2023. The 100 players who were included can be found in the list below.

1. Jamal Musiala (Bayern)

2. Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid)

3. Gavi (Barcelona)

4. António Silva (Benfica)

5. Alejandro Balde (Barcelona)

6. Xavi Simons (RB Leipzig)

7. Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen)

8. Benjamin Šeško (RB Leipzig)

9. Devyne Rensch (Ajax)

10. Giorgio Scalvini (Atalanta)

11. Lucas Gourna-Douath (RB Salzburg)

12. Arthur Vermeeren (Royal Antwerp)

13. Rayan Cherki (Lyon)

14. Harvey Elliott (Liverpool)

15. Milos Kerkez (Bournemouth)

16. Rasmus Højlund (Man Utd)

17. Rico Lewis (Man City)

18. Arnau Martínez (Girona)

19. Emanuel Emegha (Strasbourg)

20. Jelert Kristensen (Copenhagen)

21. Stefan Bajcetic (Liverpool)

22. Martin Baturina (Dinamo Zagreb)

23. Levi Colwill (Chelsea)

24. Warren Zaire-Emery (PSG)

25. Martin Vitík (Sparta Prague)

26. Ernest Nuamah (Lyon)

27. Ismaël Doukouré (Strasbourg)

28. Zeno Debast (Anderlecht)

29. Bjorn Meijer (Club Brugge)

30. Johan Bakayoko (PSV)

31. Mathys Tel (Bayern)

32. Alejandro Garnacho (Man Utd)

33. Oleksandr Saputin (Zorya Lugansk)

34. Robert Renan (Zenit)

35. Ariel Mosór (Piast Gliwice)

36. Hugo Larsson (Eintracht Frankfurt)

37. Matija Frigan (Westerlo)

38. Maurits Kjærgaard (RB Salzburg)

39. Jamie Bynoe-Gittens (Borussia Dortmund)

40. Fabio Miretti (Juventus)

41. Amane Romeo (BK Häcken)

42. Bilal El Khannous (Genk)

43. Pavlo Isenko (Vorskla Poltava)

44. Evan Ferguson (Brighton)

45. Andy Diouf (Lens)

46. Veljko Ilic (Backa Topola)

47. Christos Zafeiris (Slavia Prague)

48. Julio Enciso (Brighton)

49. El Chadaille Bitshiabu (RB Leipzig)

50. Hákon Haraldsson (Lille)

51. Lesley Ugochukwu (Chelsea)

52. Stefan Lekovic (Crvena Zvezda)

53. William Clem (Copenhagen)

54. Maksym Dyachuk (Dynamo Kyiv)

55. Aurèle Amenda (Young Boys)

56. Valdemar Jensen (Copenhagen)

57. Saël Kumbedi (Lyon)

58. Johan Bångsbo (IFK Göteborg)

59. Bonsu Baah (Genk)

60. Tommaso Baldanzi (Empoli)

61. Peter Ratkov (RB Salzburg)

62. João Neves (Benfica)

63. Viktor Melekhin (FC Rostov)

64. Lucas Hey (Nordsjaelland)

65. Youssoufa Moukoko (Borussia Dortmund)

66. Elye Wahi (Lens)

67. Roméo Lavia (Chelsea)

68. Victor Lind (IFK Norrköping)

69. Oscar Gloukh (RB Salzburg)

70. Wilfried Gnonto (Leeds)

71. Noah Persson (Young Boys)

72. Filip Sidklev (IF Brommapojkarna)

73. Otto Rosengren (Malmo)

74. Tim Oermann (Bochum)

75. Arne Engels (Augsburg)

76. Mathias Lövik (Molde)

77. Marcus Baggesen (IFK Norrköping)

78. Arda Güler (Real Madrid)

79. Kacper Kozlowski (Vitesse)

80. Isaak Touré (Lorient)

81. Alexander Busch (Silkeborg IF)

82. Ervin Omic (Wolfsberger)

83. Tobias Slotsager (Odense Boldklub)

84. Luka Stojkovic (Dinamo Zagreb)

85. Mouhamadou Diarra (Strasbourg)

86. Facundo Buonanotte (Brighton)

87. Kevin Kelsy (Shakhtar Donetsk)

88. Arsen Zakharyan (Real Sociedad)

89. Valentín Carboni (Monza)

90. Odin Holm (Celtic)

91. Mohamed-Ali Cho (Real Sociedad)

92. Samuel Iling-Junior (Juventus)

93. Désiré Doué (Rennes)

94. Ousmane Diomandé (Sporting)

95. Lewis Hall (Newcastle)

96. Máximo Perrone (Las Palmas)

97. Matías Soulé (Frosinone)

98. Carney Chukwuemeka (Chelsea)

99. Luca Netz (Borussia Mönchengladbach)

100. Kevin Paredes (Wolfsburg)

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.

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

How is the Golden Boy award decided and who votes?

The winner of the award is determined by a vote. Each voter allocates 10 points to the player they deem most impressive, with seven points for second, five points for third, three points for fourth and one point for fifth.

Voters are 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 or December.

Golden Boy winner 2022

On 21 October 2022, it was announced that Barcelona midfielder Gavi was the 2022 Golden Boy.

He became the third Barca player to lift the award after Lionel Messi in 2005 and Pedri in 2021.

He beat competition from three other high-quality finalists: Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund) and Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich).

Bellingham earned a move to Real Madrid in 2023 after his impressive performances for Borussia Dortmund and won the 2023 award.

Who won the Golden Boy award in 2022?

Barcelona midfielder Gavi picked up the Golden Boy award for 2022, following a breakout year for club and country, during which he became Spain’s youngest ever goalscorer. That record has since been broken by Lamine Yamal.

Gavi followed club team-mate Pedri in winning the award, after the fellow midfielder had taken the prize in 2021.

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 Player Country
2003 Rafael van der Vaart Netherlands
2004 Wayne Rooney England
2005 Lionel Messi Argentina
2006 Cesc Fabregas Spain
2007 Sergio Aguero Argentina
2008 Anderson Brazil
2009 Alexandre Pato Brazil
2010 Mario Balotelli Italy
2011 Mario Gotze Germany
2012 Isco Spain
2013 Paul Pogba France
2014 Raheem Sterling England
2015 Anthony Martial France
2016 Renato Sanches Portugal
2017 Kylian Mbappe France
2018 Matthijs de Ligt Netherlands
2019 Joao Felix Portugal
2020 Erling Haaland Norway
2021 Pedri Barcelona
2022 Gavi Barcelona
2023 Jude Bellingham England

As with most awards, the forward players tend to take centre stage, with 10 of the previous 21 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 eight midfielders have also come out on top.

A goalkeeper has never finished in first place.

Spain has produced the most winners with four. In 2022, Gavi joined Pedri, Cesc Fabregas and Isco as victors from Spain, taking the country one clear of France and England on three winners. Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial have won it for France, while Wayne Rooney, Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham have won the award for England..

Remarkably, there has never been a winner from Belgium despite their recent golden generation.

Manchester United and Barcelona are the clubs who have had the most winners. Three players have triumphed for the Red Devils: Wayne Rooney (2004), Anderson (2008) and Martial (2015). Barcelona’s trio includes Lionel Messi in 2005, Pedri in 2021 and Gavi in 2022.

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

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