90min
Opinion

The top Golden Boy 2021 nominees - ranked

Max Parsons
Mason Greenwood is a Golden Boy nominee
Mason Greenwood is a Golden Boy nominee / James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images
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As football fans, we love little more than overhyping the next fresh-faced youngster who bursts onto the scene with one or two phenomenal performances.

Just to prove it, the Golden Boy award, created in 2003, is awarded to the most promising young talent in European football aged under 21. Some of the recipients visibly didn't handle the hype very well - namely Alexandre Pato and Anderson - while others only achieved or surpassed their 'potential' - for example, Lionel Messi. Yeah, he didn't turn out too bad, did he?

These days, there's always a lot of talent to choose from and, just for your reading pleasure, we at 90min have whittled the 60 name-long list of nominees to the top 20. Here you go...

20. Rayan Cherki - Lyon

Rayan Cherki
Rayan Cherki is Lyon's latest talent / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Natural ability doesn't come much more in abundance than in 18-year-old Rayan Cherki. The France youth international's skill is unbelievable.

He's a magician on the ball, already possesses great decision making and spatial awareness (exemplified by the above strike, winning a crucial match against Monaco in the race for Champions League football) and is a future star - that's certain.

19. Josko Gvardiol - RB Leipzig

You may never have heard the name Josko Gvardiol but don't worry, he'll be the next Dayot Upamecano or Ibrahima Konate. RB Leipzig know young talent when they see it, and they weren't afraid to invest in the Croatian defender.

18 going on 19 at the time, he was a huge part of Dinamo Zagreb's domestic double-winning side in 2020/21, playing 41 times and registering six goals contributions throughout.

18. Amad Diallo - Manchester United

Amad Diallo
Amad Diallo in Premier League action for Manchester United / Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Now, we haven't seen the best of Amad Diallo in the senior Manchester United side - of course.

But it has undoubtedly been a tough season of acclimatisation for the 19-year-old, who arrived from Serie A for a whopping £37m in January. He scored scored against Milan in the Europa League after getting four goals and three assists in just three Premier League 2 outings.

17. Yusuf Demir (Barcelona)

Yusuf Demir
Yusuf Demir is on loan at Barcelona from Rapid Wien / Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

At 18, Yusuf Demir is already a full Austria international and has made the switch to Barcelona this summer after an impressive 18 months in the first-team at Rapid Wien in his homeland.

Barcelona have taken him on loan and have the option to make the winger their player on a permanent basis for €10m in 2022. Many expected him to initially play for the B team but he has been fast tracked to the senior squad.

16. Brian Brobbey - RB Leipzig

Brian Brobbey has been poached by RB Leipzig
Brian Brobbey has been poached by RB Leipzig / ANP Sport/Getty Images

Dutch forward Brian Brobbey has commanded plenty of attention since breaking into the Ajax first-team during the 2002/21 campaign and has since made the move to RB Leipzig.

The Bundesliga side have a fine reputation of developing talent and helping players take the next step in their career and have clearly seen a gem in Brobbey that is ripe for polishing.

15. Gabriel Martinelli - Arsenal

Gabriel Martinelli
Gabriel Martinelli is a brilliant talent / Michael Regan/Getty Images

After breaking through into the Arsenal first team in 2019/20, it hasn't been the fairy tale campaign we all thought it might have been for Gabriel Martinelli in 2020/21.

A knee injury that kept him out until December meant he only appeared 14 times in the Premier League, getting just three goal contributions.

But the way he changes the tempo of games instantly after being introduced tells you what you need to know about his quality.

14. Curtis Jones - Liverpool

Curtis Jones
Curtis Jones for Liverpool / Lewis Storey/Getty Images

You know you're good when Jurgen Klopp thinks highly of you. Curtis Jones hasn't been able to truly break into Liverpool's midfield, although with Gini Wijnaldum's departure that task may become easier.

Jones still managed nine goal contributions in 34 appearances over the course of last term and is a mightily exciting talent, as he has shown with two strikes in six caps for England Under-21s.

13. Florian Wirtz - Bayer Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen have a habit of producing young midfield stars, and they've done it again it Florian Wirtz.

The 18-year-old has been a sensation since the start of the 2020/21 campaign and was even called up for Joachim Low's Germany for March's World Cup qualifiers.

During a breakout season in which he managed 16 goal involvements, it's no surprise the Bundesliga starlet is in here.

12. Myron Boadu - Monaco

Myron Boadu
Myron Boadu for Netherlands Under-21s / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Now, if you want impressive numbers, how about this? 32 goals in 64 Eredivisie matches at 20 years old.

Myron Boadu is a natural goalscorer and has dominated defenders in the Netherlands' top tier for two seasons now. Last term the AZ man notched 15 goals in 31 games and scored in his only senior cap so far.

11. Eric Garcia (Barcelona)

Eric Garcia has returned home to Barcelona from Man City
Eric Garcia has returned home to Barcelona from Man City / LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

Eric Garcia appears to be following in the footsteps of Gerard Pique, moving from La Masia to England at 17 and then returning to Barcelona a different player ready for the first-team.

Garcia has also been regularly capped by Spain at senior international level, despite being just 20, and helped La Roja reached the semi-finals of Euro 2020, as well as collect an Olympic silver medal this summer.

10. Ilaix Moriba - Barcelona

Ilaix Moriba
Ilaix Moriba has looked comfortable in a Barcelona shirt / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Likened to Paul Pogba a lot, Ilaix Moriba is an elegant, tough, powerful and technically gifted midfielder who has looked nothing but at ease playing for Ronald Koeman's Barcelona.

He featured 14 times in La Liga, playing just 536 minutes, and registered an impressive four goal contributions from central midfield. However, a contract standoff could soon see his career continue elsewhere.

9. Jeremy Doku - Rennes

19-year-old Jeremy Doku is another starlet that has had to go through a transitional season.

Arriving at Rennes last summer, the Belgian winger went on to gather five goal contributions in 30 Ligue 1 outings.

Part of 90min's 'Our 21' series, Doku is currently with Belgium at Euro 2020, for whom he has notched two goals in eight caps.

8. Giovanni Reyna - Borussia Dortmund

In what was a turbulent campaign for Borussia Dortmund, 18-year-old Gio Reyna was a shining light.

While his output of four goals and six assists isn't the greatest, his silky, quick-footed and creative style forces a smile upon your face.

He's supremely talented, and deserves his nomination.

7. Eduardo Camavinga - Rennes

Rennes are known for the production of fantastic young players, and almost none are as impressive as 18-year-old Eduardo Camavinga.

The Frenchman has the elegance and maturity of a midfielder in their prime and is already capable of running matches like it's nobody's business.

He scored an awkward overhead kick in his full international debut for France as well, just to announce himself - the first goal shown above.

6. Ryan Gravenberch - Ajax

International friendly match"The Netherlands v Georgie"
Ryan Gravenberch scores against Georgia / ANP Sport/Getty Images

Another teenager to feature on 90min's 'Our 21' series, Ryan Gravenberch is anything you could ever want from a central midfielder.

Cool, assured, intelligent and able to do almost anything with a football, the 19-year-old has been a vital cog in Erik ten Hag's impressive Ajax side and has even got international recognition.

He's scored once in his five Netherlands caps and is currently away with the squad at the European Championships.

5. Bukayo Saka - Arsenal

Bukayo Saka
Bukayo Saka in action for England / Pool/Getty Images

Talking of 'Our 21', Bukayo Saka is the first to make the top five in this list.

At just 19, he's one of the key figures both out on the pitch and in the dressing room at Arsenal and proved to be a key player for England at Euro 2020, sparking his team into life during the group stage.

Now that is Golden Boy material.

4. Jamal Musiala - Bayern Munich

Ah, the one that got away for England.

18-year-old Jamal Musiala had two of the biggest nations scrapping over him for his allegiance - that tells you all you need to know.

Smooth, quick, decisive. His performances have been way beyond his years, making the future incredibly bright - or scary, depending on what side you're on. He made Germany's squad at Euro 2020.

3. Mason Greenwood - Manchester United

Mason Greenwood
Mason Greenwood is a rising star / Visionhaus/Getty Images

Mason Greenwood undoubtedly only really came to life towards the latter stages of the season, eventually notching seven Premier League goals.

But the fact we expect so much more of a 19-year-old is testament to how spectacularly gifted the Manchester United star is.

He's got bags of ability and two feet that no goalkeeper would ever want to face.

2. Pedri - Barcelona

This guy arrived at Camp Nou aged 17 from the second tier of Spanish football and went on to feature in 52 of Barcelona''s 53 matches all season, becoming utterly undroppable in the process. He then went on to play for Spain at Euro 2020 and the Olympics during the summer.

Pedri is creatively superior to most footballers, a silky dribbler and a tenacious midfielder who visibly just loves football. The 18-year-old is as highly regarded as you can be in Spain, and rightly so.

1. Jude Bellingham - Borussia Dortmund

Jude Bellingham
Jude Bellingham has played over 100 senior games for club & country / Joosep Martinson/Getty Images

It was tough whittling this group of players to one stand out, but it just has to be Jude Bellingham, who recently turned 18.

Seriously, what were you doing at his age?

Whatever it was, it wasn't absolutely bossing elite level football matches, outshining genius footballers and more-than-proving your worth on the international stage.

Hey, Jude - you're our number one Golden Boy.

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