The Golden Boy award is handed out each year to the most impressive player in Europe under the age of 21. The likes of Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, Sergio Aguero and Paul Pogba have all won it since its inception in 2003, so it’s a pretty good indicator for future success. (Then again, so did Anderson. Hey, nothing is guaranteed.) Of the 40 candidates for 2016, these 10 youngsters are the most likely to succeed Anthony Martial as Europe’s best young star.
Gabriel Barbosa, 20, Inter
Simply known as Gabigol, the fleet-footed Brazilian became eligible for the Golden Boy once Inter Milan paid Santos a whopping €29.5 million to bring the 20-year-old to Europe. Also hailed the “new Neymar,” Gabigol scored 56 goals in 154 matches for Santos, and scored for Brazil in both the Copa America Centenario and the Olympics this summer.
Inter via Getty ImagesClaudio Villa - Inter
Gianluigi Donnarumma, 17, AC Milan
The youngest player on the 40-man shortlist is Milan’s teenage sensation goalkeeper. Donnarumma started tending the Rossoneri’s net at 16 years and 8 months – making him Serie A's youngest goalkeeper ever – and hasn’t relinquished the job since. Though he failed to make Antonio Conte’s Euro squad, the heir apparent to Gianluigi Buffon did make his Italy debut in September to become the youngest Azzurri goalkeeper ever, too.
AFP/Getty ImagesMARCO BERTORELLO
Kelechi Iheanacho, 20, Man City
He may be stuck behind Sergio Aguero, but the Nigerian has proved a lethal alternative whenever Kun goes down (which is routinely). He scored a goal for every 93.9 minutes he was on the pitch last season – tops in the EPL, and already has 3 in 7 games this season, including the winner in last month’s Manchester derby. Iheanacho is destined for a bigger role – if not at City, then elsewhere – and soon.
Getty ImagesJames Baylis - AMA
Ousmane Dembele, 19, Borussia Dortmund
Dembele scored on his senior team debut for Rennes last November and never looked back, tallying 11 more goals on the season before signing a five-year contract with Dortmund in May. Half of Europe were after Dembele and it’s easy to see why. The French winger has skills for days, and his combination of speed and trickery put defenders to shame every time he takes the pitch.
Kingsley Coman, 20, Bayern Munich
Fast, faster, Coman. The technically gifted French winger (yes, another one) was clocked as the fastest player in the Bundesliga last season, during which he contributed 4 goals and 6 assists to help Bayern win a record fourth straight championship. He’s now already won the Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 before his 20th birthday.
Getty ImagesBoris Streubel
Marco Asensio, 20, Real Madrid
Asensio was thrust into Real’s starting lineup to start the season with Cristiano Ronaldo injured, and boy did he make the most of it, scoring spectacular goals in Real’s UEFA Supercup victory and their La Liga opener to announce himself to the world. He’s been known longer in Spain, where his impressive performances for Espanyol (on loan from Real) also earned him his first international cap in May.
Getty ImagesDavid Ramos
Marcus Rashford, 18, Man United
Rashford got his shot with United when then-manager Louis van Gaal was grasping for straws trying to save his job at Old Trafford. It didn’t work for LvG, but Rashford became an instant sensation with two goals on his first-team debut in the Europa League and another brace in his EPL debut three days later against Arsenal. His instant impact then earned him a call-up to England’s Euro squad.
Man Utd via Getty ImagesJohn Peters
Leroy Sane, 20, Man City
A speedy, instinctive and relentless player, Sane might be Germany’s brightest young talent – which is saying something. He was immense at Schalke last season, scoring 8 goals and tallying 6 assists, but is waiting to make an impact since his €50 million move to the Etihad this summer – which made him the most expensive German player of all time.
Getty ImagesMichael Steele
Dele Alli, 20, Tottenham
Alli almost instantly turned into a key man since making his debut for Tottenham last season, his 10 goals and 9 assists earning him the Premier League’s PFA Young Player of the Year award. His wonder strike against Crystal Palace, which BBC called its goal of the season, is all you really need to see. Alli has all the makings of a superstar.
Getty ImagesLaurence Griffiths
Renato Sanches, 19, Bayern Munich
Sanches’ physicality, passing and versatility in Benfica’s midfield earned him a €35million transfer to Bayern in the summer. Weeks later, Sanches was named the Euros’ Young Player of the Tournament in helping Portugal win the title. Oh, and in the process he broke Cristiano Ronaldo’s records as Portugal's youngest to start and score a goal at a major tournament. Not a bad way to get noticed.