Portugal prodigy Joao Felix heads the 2019 Golden Boy betting as the list of nominees for the award given to the best young player in Europe were announced.
If transfer fees contribute towards people’s thinking for the vote, then forward Felix is a worthy favourite. Atletico Madrid paid over €125,000,000 when buying the 19-year-old from Benfica this summer.
Felix won the Portuguese Primeira Liga with the Lisbon outfit before his big money move to the Spanish capital.
For what it’s worth, a previous Golden Boy betting leader in Kylian Mbappe came with a large price tag when leaving Monaco for PSG in 2017.
With Portugal, meanwhile, Felix was part of the squad that landed the inaugural UEFA Nations League. He is the next big thing in football out of that country.
There are already signs at Atleti that Felix is integrating well and capable of living up to the hype.
The previous Portuguese recipient of the Golden Boy – Renato Sanches – saw his career flop after a big move to Bayern Munich.
That cautionary tale isn’t one that Atletico manager Diego Simeone will allow to be repeated.
Nor can the Spanish side afford Felix to be like Sanches after selling Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona.
Sancho the danger in Golden Boy betting
Wayne Rooney and Raheem Sterling are previous English recipients of the award. Jadon Sancho has been a revelation at Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund and topped the German league assists table last term.
The winger has become a fixture in Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate’s national setup as a result.
Sancho scored his first senior goals in an England shirt this autumn with a brace against Kosovo.
With electric pace and plenty of tricks in his locker, Sancho has also been a trendsetter.
It was a brave decision to leave Manchester City and play abroad, but one that has paid off. Many other young English players have followed suit.
The 20-man shortlist for the 2019 Golden Boy has been announced ? pic.twitter.com/W2AGMWnsCK
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Sancho’s former Etihad youth teammate Phil Foden finds first-team opportunities limited under Pep Guardiola despite his huge potential.
That explains why Foden is a much bigger price in the Golden Boy betting than Sancho.
He simply doesn’t play as much and development only comes with game time.
Sancho is a Dortmund regular and that is why his performances have made him a key player for club and country.
Although Felix is fancied, there is a considerable case to be made for the England wideman too.
De Ligt unlikely to reign again
Netherlands centre back Matthijs de Ligt won the award last year and has vindicated that in 2019.
However, no player – let alone a defender – has been voted Golden Boy more than once. With Ajax, De Ligt went on a remarkable journey.
The Amsterdam outfit eliminated then triple-reigning Champions League dominant force Real Madrid from Europe’s elite club competition.
Ajax reached the semis with De Ligt as captain before losing out to a late comeback from Spurs. The Eredivisie and Dutch Cup double followed.
Continuing a career in his native Netherlands would only have taken De Ligt so far and thus he was sold to Italian giants Juventus. Serie A is where arguably some of the all-time great defenders have played and honed their craft.
Injuries at the Old Lady have thrust De Ligt centre stage after his reported €75,000,000 transfer. He can learn a great deal from defensive partner Leonardo Bonucci.
OFFICIAL: The Netherlands and Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt has won the 2018 Golden Boy award! pic.twitter.com/6hR3sz6PJb
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Juve are the dominant force in Italian football and, despite the departure of Max Allegri from Turin, expected to continue their stranglehold on the Scudetto.
Given De Ligt has already been the Golden Boy, voters are likely to look elsewhere when allocating this year’s award. He retains huge potential, though, and will only get better in Serie A.
Havertz best of rest but just an outside shout
The Golden Boy betting pretty much looks a two-horse race between Felix and Sancho.
Of those at bigger odds, Germany and Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Kai Havertz scored 20 goals – as many as Felix – in all competitions last term.
At a time when national boss Joachim Low is overhauling that part of his squad on the road to Euro 2020, Havertz has made a strong case for inclusion.
Leverkusen have a good conveyor belt of young talent, much like Schalke who are another Bundesliga club with pretensions.
Only one German footballer, Mario Gotze, has been Golden Boy before. Havertz is a talent nonetheless and playing regularly for Leverkusen where he is clearly effective.
The remainder in the Golden Boy betting aren’t likely to make the shortlist. Mason Mount has only just broke into Chelsea’s first-team under Frank Lampard.
Fellow English midfielder Foden, meanwhile, isn’t getting enough action at Man City as mentioned above.
Barcelona prospect Ansu Fati needs more game time too, while El Clasico rivals Real Madrid have an obvious talent on their hands in Brazil forward Vinicius Junior.
Injuries this year mean he can’t really be a serious Golden Boy contender. Norway striker Erling Braut Haaland, meanwhile, clearly has a bright future but the Austrian Bundesliga isn’t a challenge for him.