Revisiting the Golden Boy top 10 from 2017: Mbappe, Jesus, Mor…

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Kylian Mbappe in action for PSG against Manchester City, Etihad Stadium, Manchester, November 2021

The European Golden Boy award is handed out to the most promising youngster in the world every year, but they don’t always develop as expected. Five years on from the 2017 edition some of the nominees have become world-beaters while others have fallen off the grid completely.

The top 10 Under-21 players are selected in order, and the winner of the award each year goes on to achieve greatness more often than not.

It was an eventful year in 2017, as Real Madrid won yet another Champions League, Antonio Conte’s Chelsea stormed to the Premier League title and Monaco shockingly pipped PSG to the top of Ligue 1.

We’ve taken a look at the top 10 from the 2017 edition of the Golden Boy award and how they’re faring five years on.

10. Rodrigo Bentancur

When Tottenham’s current midfield star was nominated for the award he had only been at Juventus for a few months after joining from Boca Juniors, and the then-teenager earned his place after a very promising start in Turin.

Already a full Uruguay international, Bentancur did not ultimately succeed at Juventus but is currently winning plaudits at Spurs having joined in January 2022 for around £20million.

The 24-year-old has brought steel and quality to the Spurs team which helped them secure a top-four spot ahead of their rivals Arsenal.

9. Federico Chiesa

One of many promising talents to progress through the academy at Fiorentina, the Italy winger was electric when he first came along in 2016 and had already made nearly 50 first-team appearances by the time he was nominated for the award.

A move to Juventus came in 2020, and less than a year later he was named in the Euro 2020 team of the tournament after helping Italy win the trophy.

An ACL injury soon after ruled him out for the 2021-22 campaign, but if the 24-year-old reaches his previous level when he returns, plenty more trophies will follow.

8. Emre Mor

The Turkey international was a talented but controversial attacker at Borussia Dortmund and was sold after a falling out with manager Thomas Tuchel.

Celta Vigo thought they had landed a bargain when they secured his signature for around £11.5million in 2017, but disaster followed.

Mor’s disciplinary problems continued during his time in La Liga, as he was dropped from the squad on multiple occasions.

With just two league goals in 52 games, the club eventually decided that his performances weren’t worth the headache and sent him out on loan three times.

Although still on Celta Vigo’s books, unsuccessful spells with Galatasary, Olympiacos and Fatih Karagumruk mean that the 24-year-old finds himself in footballing purgatory.

7. Kasper Dolberg

The Danish striker was the next big thing coming through the Ajax academy as his side reached the Europa League final in 2017, and scored 23 goals in 48 games as a teenager.

However, it was downhill from there, and, after two fairly underwhelming seasons by comparison, it was time to move on, with Dolberg joining Nice for around £18.5million in 2019.

With 24 goals in 87 games in France, Dolberg hasn’t been a disaster. But he’s a long way away from delivering on the hype he received in 2017.

6. Christian Pulisic

Having starred for Borussia Dortmund and the USA, Pulisic was unsurprisingly regarded as one of football’s best young prospects in 2017.

The winger remained in Germany until 2019 and then completed a £58million move to Chelsea, where he had the unenviable task of replacing Eden Hazard.

He’s provided flashes of quality in his first three years in England and even scored in the 2020 FA Cup final, but his Chelsea career has been plagued by injuries and inconsistent performances.

While Pulisic is currently struggling for regular opportunities under Thomas Tuhcel, he remains the USMNT’s biggest star and helped them qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

5. Gianluigi Donnarumma

Despite only being 18 years old when the 2017 Golden Boy awards took place, Donnarumma had already made over 80 first-team appearances for AC Milan.

The goalkeeper then replaced Gianlugi Buffon as Italy’s No.1 and played a key role in their successful Euro 2020 campaign, winning the Player of the Tournament award. He also received the 2021 Lev Yashin award for being the best goalkeeper in Europe.

After an acrimonious exit from San Siro in 2021, the 23-year-old joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer and had a mixed debut season, making 17 Ligue 1 appearances as he shared the goalkeeping duties with Keylor Navas.

4. Gabriel Jesus

A Palmeiras academy graduate, Jesus was linked with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus before completing a £27million move to Manchester City in 2017.

The Brazil international hit the ground running during his first year in Manchester and was tipped to become Sergio Aguero’s long-term successor.

While he hasn’t always been a regular in Pep Guardiola’s side in recent years, the striker still scored 95 goals in 236 appearances and helped them win four Premier League titles, three EFL Cups and an FA Cup.

He now looks set to join Arsenal on a permanent deal following Erling Haaland’s arrival at the Etihad and is reportedly valued at £50million.

3. Marcus Rashford

After finishing as runner-up to Renato Sanches in 2016, Rashford then came third in the Golden Boy rankings in 2017.

Along with most of Manchester United’s players, the winger endured a difficult 2018 under Jose Mourinho but made a lot of progress following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s arrival.

He registered 55 goals and 34 assists in 135 appearances under the Norwegian, establishing himself as one of the best forwards in the Premier League.

But the England international endured the worst season of his career in 2021-22, scoring just five goals in 32 appearances. He’s no longer one of the first names on the United team sheet and will be hoping that Erik ten Hag can get his career back on track.

Manchester United forwards (l-r) Marcus Rashford, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo celebrate scoring goals

READ: How Rashford’s record after 200 PL games compares to Rooney & CR7

2. Ousmane Dembele

Dembele established himself as one of Europe’s brightest young talents during his solitary season at Borussia Dortmund and joined Barcelona in a deal worth £135million in 2017.

The winger, who was signed as a direct replacement for Neymar, won two La Liga titles and two Copas del Rey but has failed to live up to expectations.

He’s spent most of his Barcelona career in the treatment room due to a series of injury problems and there were often concerns about his attitude off the pitch.

The 25-year-old finally started to fulfil his potential under the tutelage of Xavi in the 2021-22 season, registering more La Liga assists than any other player.

But his Barcelona contract is set to expire this summer and former Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel is reportedly looking to bring him to Chelsea.

1. Kylian Mbappe

After playing a starring role in Monaco’s surprise run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2017, Mbappe won the Golden Boy award and received 142 more votes than Dembele. 

He spent the 2017-18 season on loan at Paris Saint-Germain before making the move permanent in a £166million deal. 

The France international also added the 2018 World Cup trophy to his collection, becoming the youngest player since Pele to score in the final of the tournament.

Despite only being 23 years old, he has astonishingly reached 200 career goals and is widely regarded as one of the best players in the world. It seems a matter of when not if he adds the Ballon d’Or to his Golden Boy award.

Mbappe was heavily linked with a free transfer to Real Madrid in 2022 but ultimately decided to sign a new three-year contract with PSG and is reportedly earning around £1million a week.

Kylian Mbappe and Vinicius Junior during PSG vs Real Madrid, Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, March 2022

READ: The 14 most expensive teenagers in football history & how they fared


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