Across this week, SPORF has been looking at each of the 17 winners of football’s Golden Boy award.
On Wednesday, we looked at the winners of the award from between 2010 and 2012 – Mario Balotelli, Mario Gotze and Isco.
Now, in the penultimate part of the series, we’ll be looking at four more winners from between 2013 and 2016:
2013 – Paul Pogba (Juventus)
The departure of Paul Pogba from Manchester United, at the age of 19, to join Juventus, caused plenty of debate. Sir Alex Ferguson declared Mino Raiola, Pogba’s agent, a “s**tbag” over the affair. Raiola told The Athletic this year that Ferguson’s comments were “the biggest compliment anybody could give me”.
Whatever the arguments involved in the situation, Pogba went on to thrive at Juventus. The Frenchman quickly established himself as a key member of the side in central midfield, and was named in UEFA’s Team of the Year, as well as FIFA’s FIFPro World XI, in 2015.
Despite United failing to qualify for the Champions League in 2018/19, Pogba had his best individual season in front of goal, scoring on 16 occasions in all competitions to end the season as the club’s top goalscorer.
The midfielder’s 2019/20 campaign was heavily disrupted by injury, but he returned after the Covid-19 enforced break to play an important role in United’s successful push towards the top four.
On the international stage, Pogba has been a key cog in the France side that lifted the World Cup in 2018 – he scored in the final – and the Nations League earlier this year.
2014 – Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)
By that point, Sterling, aged 20, had already established himself as one of England’s brightest prospects. In 2013/14 – his breakthrough season – he struck nine goals in 33 appearances as part of a potent Reds strike trio alongside Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
After his move to City, Sterling would get better and better. For three consecutive seasons between 2017 and 2020, he passed 15 goals in the Premier League. Under the management of Pep Guardiola, he became an unstoppable force.
The one area that was lacking was his goalscoring form on the international stage. After the 2018 World Cup, Sterling had just two goals in 45 international appearances. But two goals in a Nations League game against Spain kickstarted a run of form which saw him score eight goals in a calendar year in 2019, and three goals at Euro 2020. He is unquestionably one of England’s most vital players.
2015 – Anthony Martial (Monaco/Manchester United)
Career highlights – 1x FA Cup, 1x Europa League (Manchester United), 1x Nations League (France)
Anthony Martial’s first cameo in a Manchester United shirt couldn’t have gone any better. From the moment he slotted the ball expertly into the bottom corner during United’s 3-1 win over Liverpool, English football knew it had a serious talent.
At the end of his debut season in 2015/16, he had scored 17 goals in all competitions. But the following two seasons saw his game time drop under new boss Jose Mourinho, and he struggled to recapture the form he had shown in his first campaign.
In 2019/20, though, the French international was back to his best. He plundered 17 goals in 32 Premier League games, including a stunning hat-trick against Sheffield United late on in the season.
This season, Martial has again struggled for game time, starting just three times in all competitions. His solitary domestic goal came against Everton in a 1-1 draw earlier this month.
2016 – Renato Sanches (Benfica/Bayern Munich)
Career highlights – 2x Bundesliga, 1x DFB-Pokal (Bayern Munich), 1x Ligue 1 (Lille), 1x European Championship (Portugal)
When Bayern Munich signed Renato Sanches from Benfica in the summer of 2016, he was regarded as one of football’s finest midfield prospects.
One month later, he would go on to star for Portugal at Euro 2016, going on to lift the first trophy of his career.
But whilst progress in Germany’s top division – inbetween a mixed loan at Swansea City – was relatively slow due to form and injuries, Sanches has now got to a level which has the top clubs taking serious notice again.
Last season, after being sold to French club Lille in 2019, he played a crucial role in Les Dogues winning their first top flight title in 10 years. Still at the age of just 24, the future remains bright for one of Portugal’s rising stars.
Featured Image Credit: Getty