Every year since 2003, Tuttosport has given the golden boy award to the most promising player aged 20 or under. There are some stellar names among the past winner but the funny thing about youth potential is how a wunderkind could easily become a flop over time.
Many a golden boy has gone on to enjoy a fulfilling career as promised (think Lionel Messi) but others (like Anderson) have simply failed to live up to expectation, struggling with the pressure of being named the best youth prospect in the world. This year’s winner Kylian Mbappe Lottin, blitzed his way to the award with an amazing 2017 performance but future winners of this award will need to take heed if they are to avoid fizzling out like some of their predecessors. Here are somethings they need to avoid like the first slice of bread
1. Don’t be a journeyman
There’s certainly some benefit for players who don’t have to spend every summer negotiating new contracts or understanding a new coach or system. It could be the stability given by familiar faces or simply having enough time to adapt completely to the system. There’s also the stability from non-footballing components of their immediate environment such as climate and culture. Even though the reason is not completely clear, the results are pretty clear. In the journeyman corner, you can see Raphael Van der Vaart, Anderson, Mario Balotelli and Alexandre Pato who represented 4 clubs each. Over in the staying put corner, Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas & Sergio Aguero who have all represented 3 clubs or less.
2. Don’t be Brazilian
Only France has more Golden boys than Brazil and this is no surprise. Why? Mostly because there is hardly a year that passes without a Brazilian super talent to rave about. Both Samba examples of a Golden Boy happen to be both Anderson and Pato. I do not mean to be mean at all when I say both are pretty good illustrations for not delivering on the initial promise.
3. Don’t win it in England
There is a caveat to this, and that is, be English. Only Fabregas has managed to escape the curse of the foreign Golden boy. The others who have won the award while playing in England; Balotelli and Anthony Martial, are still viewed to be some way off from realising their full potential. Some have said it’s impractical to expect the Italian to ever deliver. Martial still has time though, besides Martial FC would want you to believe he’s not struggling. 4 goals from the 2016/2017 season say otherwise.
4. Don’t be injury prone
Pato never really stood a chance did he? A young Pato was likened to his id Ronaldo de Lima but he ended up taking his idols worst characteristic, a penchant for injuries. Since 2008, he’s missed over 432 games through injury. An outstanding speedster, he broke Pele’s record for the youngest scorer in a FIFA senior international competition. The occasion was quite big because he put Barcelona to the sword in the FIFA Club World Cup. However, tragedy has struck over and over again. Playing time reduced him to a few appearances per season and the starlet that once shone is now in the Far East, a Golden Boy hampered by injuries.