The final shortlist for this year’s Golden Boy award was announced on Wednesday, with Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt, Roma’s Justin Kluivert, AC Milan striker Patrick Cutrone and Real Madrid rising star Vinicius Junior making the cut.
Though 2017 winner Kylian Mbappe was a surprise omission, the five finalists are worthy inclusions on the shortlist. Each has established himself as a rising star, first-team regular or coveted transfer target over the last year thanks to some eye-catching displays.
Here’s a look at the five contenders.
TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (LIVERPOOL/ENGLAND)
The young Englishman has established himself as Liverpool’s first-choice right-back over the past year, putting in assured performances in defence while becoming a key part of the side’s attack as well.
Alexander-Arnold instantly grabbed the headlines on his Champions League debut, scoring a stunning free-kick, and he’s continued to go from strength to strength in 2018.
Though he had a bruising display in Liverpool’s heartbreaking loss in the final of that competition, coming up against Cristiano Ronaldo, the young star has been a bright spot for both club and country – and scored his first England goal last week. A timely reminder.
MATTHIJS DE LIGT (AJAX/NETHERLANDS)
A player at the top of the transfer wishlist for the likes of Barcelona and Manchester City is definitely doing something right. The 19-year-old De Ligt was already a rising star two years ago after breaking through at Ajax, for whom he is now captain.
A defender in the classic Dutch ‘total football’ mould, De Ligt’s pace and positional sense make him hard to beat at the back, while he’s arguably even better at launching attacks than he is at stopping them.
After being handed his Netherlands debut last year, he’s been key to the national team’s resurgence, and served notice of his talent in a two-assist display during Oranje’s 3-0 win over reigning European champions Portugal earlier this year.
Only two players featured in every Netherlands game of 2018:— Dutch Football (@FootballOranje_) November 19, 2018
Matthijs de Ligt. pic.twitter.com/QJcdnCet66
JUSTIN KLUIVERT (AJAX/ROMA/THE NETHERLANDS)
Along with De Ligt, Justin Kluivert is bidding to become the first Dutchman to win this award since Rafael Van der Vaart in 2003. Like his compatriot, Kluivert broke through at Ajax, and his performances at the Eredivisie club earned him a summer transfer to 2017/18 Champions League semi-finalists Roma.
He’s already become one of the most consistent players for the Serie A side, for whom he bagged an assist on his league debut. Kluivert, son of former Ajax, AC Milan and Barcelona star Patrick, has risen to the very top of European football – and he’s reportedly the favourite for this award at the moment.
Justin Kluivert has all the tools to be a successful player in the Serie A. Roma are completing an incredible signing. pic.twitter.com/CMVUIiqFCb— EiF Video (@EiF_Highlights) June 13, 2018
PATRICK CUTRONE (AC MILAN/ITALY)
AC Milan gave Cutrone the biggest possible endorsement this summer. When they bought Gonzalo Higuain from Juventus during the transfer window, they put every one of their incumbent strikers up for sale – except their young star.
Cutrone earned that status through a stunning debut season for his boyhood club, whom he joined in 2007 as a seven-year-old. His goals last season were instrumental in Milan’s return to Europe, and he’s looked just as accomplished since the start of the new season.
20 Goals in 60 sec 🔥— ACMilanSwiss (@AcMilanSwiss) July 10, 2018
from our wonderkid Patrick Cutrone pic.twitter.com/x7TVnX87Ed
VINICIUS JUNIOR (FLAMENGO/REAL MADRID)
Being an 18-year-old signing at Real Madrid is never easy. Especially not for someone anointed as the club’s new saviour before even kicking a ball for the first team.
Yet Vinicius Junior, who became a fan favourite just because the first team were struggling while he acclimatised at his new club by playing for the academy side, has dealt with the hype reasonably well.
The Brazilian was already a star in his home country – enough to make Madrid steal a march on their rivals and secure his signature a year ago, before letting him stay at Flamengo until this summer.
At that point, he wasn’t even a regular for Flamengo. But his displays since then have showcased what a talent he is.
According to Brazil legend Cafu, Vinicius Junior is the perfect replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo.— Real Madrid News (@onlyrmcfnews) November 15, 2018
"Vinicius certainly has everything to follow in his footsteps - he may become the new Cristiano Ronaldo... but will have to sweat and work hard to make that happen." #HalaMadrid pic.twitter.com/GelxZwcprf
Stats taken from Transfermarkt. All stats for club and country from 2018.
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