Sports

Where Golden Boy winners are now from Alexandre Pato to Isco as Pedri is named winner

Barcelona’s young starlet Pedri has been named as FIFA’s Golden Boy for 2021 as the Spaniard caps off an incredible calendar year.

The 18-year-old burst onto the scene with Barca before starring for Spain at both the Olympics and Euro 2020.

In recent years, Erling Haaland, Matthijs de Ligt, and Kylian Mbappe have swept up the prestigious award.

And while their careers are still in the burdening phase of their footballing life, not all Golden Ball winners have gone on to have sustained success.

Daily Star Sport is looking at five players who won the Golden Ball who fell off the footballing radar.

Rafael van der Vaart – 2003



Ajax Rafael van der Vaart (R) passes Juan Velasco of Celta de Vigo during their Champions League Group H match 22 October 2003 in the Amsterdam Arena.
Van der Vaart was the inaugural winner of the award

The inaugural winner of the Golden Boy was former Tottenham Hotspur standout Rafael van der Vaart.

Then just 20-years-old, Van der Vaart had already spent three years in the Eredivisie for Ajax when he claimed the award.

It’s often forgotten how revered Van der Vaart was in his homeland, and with memories of the great Johan Cruyff fresh, the youngster was hailed as his second coming.

However, a move to Real Madrid stunted his development before playing his best football at White Hart Lane – the Dutchman retired in 2018, and he is now assistant manager at Esbjerg in Denmark.

Who do you think the biggest flop on this list is? Let us know in the comments section

Anderson – 2008



Anderson of Manchester United in action during the FIFA Club World Cup semi final match between Gamba Osaka and Manchester United at the International Stadium Yokohama on December 18, 2008 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan.
Anderson is perhaps the biggest flop on the list

Anderson is perhaps the biggest flop on the list, and he arrived at Manchester United in 2007 as a tricky winger with lots of potential.

And one year into his stay at Old Trafford, Anderson was awarded FIFA’s Golden Boy award.

However, there were fitness issues and erratic form that saw Anderson’s stock plummet, and when he left United in 2015, his stint had been largely underwhelming.

Anderson returned to South America, but Europe was an itch that needed to be scratched and he gave it one last go with Adana Demirspor in Turkey before hanging up his boots at 32-years-old in 2020.

The Brazilian is perhaps best known for being given oxygen after playing 36 minutes in the notoriously difficult city of La Paz.

Alexandre Pato – 2009



Alexandre Pato of AC Milan in action during the Serie A match between AC Milan and UC Sampdoria at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on December 5, 2009 in Milan, Italy.
Pato was once one of Europe’s most highly touted prospects


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The season after Anderson was awarded the Golden Ball, it was the turn of another Brazilian to step up: Alexandre Pato.

And it the time it seemed like an obvious choice, Pato was one of football’s hottest properties, and he was a regular on the AC Milan scoresheet – Pato even dated Silvio Berlusconi daughter while at the side.

However, a stint of injuries, and collapsed move to PSG, changed the course of his career, and after a disastrous spell at Chelsea, Pato faded into obscurity with spells in China and Brazil.

Pato’s time in China was particularly lucrative, and once-boy-wonder saw his net-worth skyrocket to $145million (£108million).

The 32-year-old reappeared over the summer when he signed with MLS side Orlando City, presumably hoping to rediscover his Milan form.

Mario Gotze – 2011



Dortmund's midfielder Mario Goetze holds his Golden Boy 2011 trophy after being awarded the best European under-21 player of the year prior to the German first division Bundesliga football match Borussia Dortmund vs 1.FC Kaiserslautern in the German city of Dortmund on December 11, 2011.
Gotze won the 2011 edition

There was a time that Mario Gotze seemed to be a shoo-in for a future Ballon d’Or nomination and perhaps even a win.

Gotze was awarded the Golden Boy in 2011, and shortly after, he starred as Borussia Dortmund reached the final of the Champions League.

His performances in front of the ‘Yellow Wall’ earned him a move to Bayern Munich, and he was a standout for the German national team, where a World Cup winner cemented his spot in history.

However, Gotze faced health troubles, and in 2017 he was diagnosed with myopathy, a muscular disorder that had troubled him for a number of seasons.

Bayern let Gotze return to Borussia Dortmund, but as he struggled with myopathy it has taken a move out of the limelight, to PSV, to help him find his feet again.

Isco – 2012



Francisco R. Alarcon Isco of Malaga CF holds up the 'Golen boy' trophy for being the best U-21 European player given by the sports daily newspaper Tuttosport prior to the La Liga match between Malaga CF and Real Madrid CF at La Rosaleda Stadium on December 22, 2012 in Malaga, Spain.
Isco is still at Real Madrid

For a short period – in the early 2010s – Malaga were one of Spain’s heavyweights, and they punch-for-punch with Madrid and Barca.

With Manuel Pellegrini at the helm – and Solomon Rondon, yes that Solomon Rondon, bagging the goals – Malaga bullied their way into the Champions League spots.

Isco, alongside Santi Cazorla, was their jewel in their proverbial crown as his performances earned him a move to Real.

And while it started well, it’s all ended in tears for the Spaniard, and he remains on the peripheries of the club as Madrid’s forgotten man.




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