It’s mid-June and we’ve not had a great deal of football this calendar year, but the (awards) show must go on!
Tuttosport, Italian magazine and regular dabblers in iffy transfer gossip, have released their 100 names for the 2020 Golden Boy long list.
The Golden Boy award honours the best Under-21 footballer playing in Europe’s top tiers, with the first tonne of contenders whittled down to a final 20 by public vote, before a group of journalists get their grubby mitts on the names for a final decision.
It’s a biggish deal, Golden Boy. Since its inaugural year in 2003, it’s been won by soon-after global megastars like Lionel Messi (you know him), Wayne Rooney (also good), Raheem Sterling (yep, still very good), Kylian Mbappe (très bon) and also Anderson (errm…yeah).
Generally speaking, it’s a pretty good indicator of who the next big thing in football will be (in case you didn’t already know from FIFA, the internet and watching games and stuff).
Anyway, though the winner won’t be decided until the end of the year, here are the early frontrunners for the 2020 award…
20-year-old Italy international Tonali is name not unfamiliar to regular perusers of the gossip columns and has been/is a transfer target of just about every big club on the planet, supposedly.
The deep-lying midfielder is often likened to Andrea Pirlo, but cites his World Cup-winning water carrier Gennaro Gattuso as his hero.
The fact that Brescia are getting relegated (barring some sort of miracle) may affect Tonali’s chances in the Golden Boy voting, though a big summer move won’t.
After facing a fair amount of criticism for his end product, Vinicius only popped up with the opener in the Clásico back in March, which duly silenced the doubters…for a bit.
The 19-year-old winger has plenty of potential but will need a very strong second half of the year to get anywhere near a podium finish.
Just in case you were worried that Marcus Rashford is getting on a bit (he’s 22 now and might fancy a shot at the PM’s job sooner rather than later), fret not because United have a spare!
Bradford-born Greenwood became the Red Devils’ youngest-ever goalscorer in Europe last year at the age of just 17 years and 353 days.
He also has 12 goals in 36 appearances in 2019/20.
It’s been quite the year for 20-year-old Sweden international Kulesevski, a player who threw up at San Siro on his debut due to stress.
A versatile attacking operator (mezzala anyone?), Kulusevski has five goals and seven assists this season on loan at Parma, earning him a big-money move to Juventus.
A strong opening to next season at Juve among illustrious company won’t hurt his chances of getting big shiny golden ball for his mantelpiece.
Another ‘it’ child of the gossip columns, 20-year-old Torres has built on his breakthrough year at Valencia in the Copa del Rey-winning campaign of 2018/19 to become one of La Liga’s top talents this season.
Barcelona, Dortmund, Liverpool, Man City and all the rest have been linked for the player (likened to former Valencia products Vicente and David Silva) who has a €100m release clause.
He also scored his first Champions League goals in 2019/20.
Still eligible for this award for another three years, 17-year-old Fati is that increasingly rare phenomenon of a La Masia graduate challenging the old guard in Barcelona’s first team.
The Champions League’s and Barcelona’s youngest-ever goalscorer has the crippling weight of being talked about as Lionel Messi’s anointed successor but seems unfazed by the challenges so far, scoring five times this season.
The Spain Under-21 star honed his skills with rolled-up socks in Guinea-Bissau, before he moved to Seville aged six.
A €40m arrival from Santos, Rodrygo looks to be ahead of much more senior names in Real Madrid’s attacking pecking order, having impressed Zinedine Zidane with his displays this season.
The 19-year-old has seven goals in 19 appearances, including a perfect hat-trick (left foot, right foot, head) against Galatasaray in the Champions League.
He was also the first person born in the 21st century to score in the Champions League.
What did you say you were you doing aged 19 again?
It’s not ridiculously flippant to say that Alphonso Davies, at 19, might already be Canada’s best-ever player. Sorry Canada, but also not sorry. You’ve got Davies now.
The 19-year-old has been a revelation in the Bundesliga this season at left back, scoring goals, assisting for fun, terrorising Chelsea and clocking speeds north of 35km/ph.
He’s also great on TikTok, if that sort of thing interests you.
What else is there to say about the giant baby Dolph Lundgren of football that is Erling Haaland?
Built like a tractor with a Ferrari engine, Tuttosport described the Norwegian as a ‘frontrunner’ for their award and, yeah, there’s not much disputing that.
He’s so terrifying, in fact, that he made all of Paris go really weird for a bit.
The 19-year-old has 14 goals in 15 for Dortmund and 63 in 108 already in his short career.
The second Dortmund star on the list and second Englishman, there really isn’t a better player under the age of 21 on the planet right now than Jadon Sancho.
The 20-year-old former Man City youth star has 17 goals and 16 assists in 2019/20, which is more goal contributions than just about anyone, anywhere…no, not including Messi.
The England international was also among a wave of Bundesliga players to show on-pitch solidarity following the George Floyd killing in America, sparking a change in FIFA policy to ‘political’ messages.
Also, by the time of the award ceremony, he could well be a £100m+ Man Utd signing.