Barcelona’s young starlet Pedri has been named as FIFA’s Golden Boy for 2021 as the Spaniard caps off an incredible calendar year.
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
The inaugural winner of the Golden Boy was former Tottenham Hotspur standout Rafael van der Vaart.
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 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
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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
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.
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
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.