By 90Min
October 15, 2019

The shortlist for the 2019 Golden Boy Award has been narrowed down to 20 names, with the prize for the best under-21 player in Europe set to be handed out in December.

Established by Italian publication Tuttosport in 2003, the award is voted on by a range of journalists across Europe and, with previous winners including Lionel Messi, Raheem Sterling and Kylian Mbappe, it has come to be viewed as a prestigious honour for young players.

With less than two months to go until award time, here's a ranking of 90min's top ten contenders for 2019's Golden Boy...

See here for the full list of 20 players.


10. Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan)

Alessandro Sabattini/GettyImages

Age: 20

Biggest achievement: Becoming Italy's first-choice goalkeeper

It seems almost ridiculous that Donnarumma is even still in contention for these types of awards given how long he's been around, but the Milan goalkeeper really is only 20 years old.

While it was not his most standout calendar year to date, with Milan and Italy both somewhat disappointing, Donnarumma continues to be a pillar of consistency and quality rarely seen for a keeper of his age.

He has now surpassed 150 games for Milan (and will make 150 Serie A games) before the year is out, while he is also established as Italy's first-choice keeper under Roberto Mancini.


9. Kang-in Lee (Valencia)

David Aliaga/MB Media/GettyImages

Age: 18

Biggest achievement: Winning the FIFA Under-20 World Cup Golden Ball 

We may be yet to see much of Lee domestically but 2019 was still a breakout year for the South Korean playmaker.

The youngster, who joined Valencia way back in 2011 as a pre-teen, shone at the Under-20 World Cup as Korea finished runners-up. After scoring two goals and registering four assists in the seven games, Lee was awarded the tournament's Golden Ball for best player.


He has since been promoted to the Korea senior side, making his debut in September, while he scored his first La Liga goal the same month, netting in a 3-3 draw with Getafe.


8. Ansu Fati (Barcelona)

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Age: 20

Biggest achievement: Becoming Barcelona's youngest ever goalscorer at 16 and 304 days

Not even on the original 40-man shortlist when it was released back in September, Fati's rise has been swift and impressive.

Some may point to the fact that Fati has only made six appearances for Barcelona's first team so far, as a sign that it's too early to judge him alongside young players that have several years of first-team football behind them.

However, even with such limited game time behind him, it is clear that Fati is a huge prospect. 

Rising through the Barça academy, the Guinea-Bissau born forward - who honed his technique with rolled-up socks - has taken to first-team football with incredible ease, netting twice in his opening five La Liga games. 

He also obtained Spanish citizenship recently is hotly tipped to be fast-tracked to Robert Moreno's senior squad soon.


7. Nicolo Zaniolo (Roma)

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Age: 20

Biggest achievement: Being named Serie A Young Player of the Year 2018/19

Midfield diamond Zaniolo was on Inter's books but was let go as part of a deal to bring Radja Nainggolan from Roma to San Siro. It's pretty clear who got the better end of that deal.

Despite Roma having a poor year in Serie A in 2018/19 as they finished sixth, the Italian playmaker was one huge positive during the campaign. Possessing fine dribbling skills and the ability to find pockets of space in the final third, he has gone from strength to strength.

Now a regular fixture in the Italian national team, he has earned three senior caps to date under Roberto Mancini.


6. Donyell Malen (PSV Eindhoven)

Donyell Malen

Age: 20

Biggest achievement: Scoring 16 goals in 18 games so far in 2019/20 for PSV

Arsenal fans may want to look away now. The Gunners had Malen on their books as a youngster, only to let him slip away to join PSV Eindhoven.

The 20-year-old established himself as a regular in the team last season, scoring ten goals in 31 Eredivisie games for Eindhoven. This season he has found another level altogether.

He has already matched his total from the 2018/19 campaign, netting ten times in just nine games for his club in the league, while he has eight in six in the Europa League. Malen has also received his first caps for a Netherlands senior squad packed with youthful brilliance.

With already talk of a £50m fee required to take him away from the Netherlands, Malen could well be the next great Dutch forward.


5. Erling Håland (Red Bull Salzburg)

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Age: 19

Biggest achievement: Winning the FIFA Under-20 World Cup Golden Boot

Son of Alf-Inge Håland, who played for Nottingham Forest, Leeds and Manchester City, Erling might well be getting his own Premier League move in the not-too-distant future.

It is likely that not many people would have heard of this 19-year-old outside of Austria or Scandanavia before the start of the year, but they surely will have now. 

The towering yet baby-faced forward has scored 11 goals in his first eight league games for Red Bull Salzburg this season, while hitting a staggering 18 in 11 overall. Prior to that he gave a big hint of what was to come by winning the Golden Boot at the Under-20 World Cup in Poland this summer - hitting an incredible nine goals in one game against Honduras.

On his Champions League debut in September, Håland bagged a hat-trick against Genk, and then came off the bench to score against Liverpool at Anfield. 

Before the Genk game, Håland's teammates revealed the striker had been listening to the Champions League theme music alone in his car.


4. Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen)

Jörg Schüler/GettyImages

Age: 20

Biggest achievement: Becoming second-youngest player of all-time to score 25 Bundesliga goals 

Germany have had their fair share of excellent attacking midfielders in recent times. Think Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Marco Reus and Mario Gotze to name a few.

They may have just found their next one. 

Havertz, described as an Alleskönner in Germany (a player who can do everything), netted 17 Bundesliga goals from midfield in 2018/19, while finishing second behind Reus in the vote for German Footballer of the Year.

Since making his senior debut in 2018. he already has seven caps for Germany's senior side, and is one of their leading youngsters as they look to rebuild following a dreadful World Cup in 2018. 

Bayern Munich, along with every big Premier League club, have been keeping watch on the star who could fetch his club around £90m if the gossip is to be believed.


3. Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)

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Age: 19

Biggest achievement: Being the top assist maker in the Bundesliga 2018/19

It is amazing to think that Sancho is still a teenager given how much he has already achieved in his short career. The youngster made the brave decision to leave Manchester City in 2017 to join German side Borussia Dortmund amid concerns over a glass ceiling at the Etihad Stadium...and boy has it paid off.

In 2018/19, Sancho registered a quite remarkable 12 goals and 14 assists in the league as Dortmund pushed rivals Bayern Munich all the way for the Bundesliga title.

Concerns that his year was a fluke were cast aside as the young Englishman scored and provided an assist in the DFL-Supercup victory over Bayern at the start of the new season. 

In his first seven games of 2019/20, he has scored three and produced six assists. He also already has nine caps for England, while he has scored twice for England in the 5-3 Euro 2020 qualifier win over Kosovo.


2. Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus)

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Age: 20

Biggest achievement: Captaining Ajax to a domestic double and Champions League semi-final

Last year's winner could well be the first-ever player to retain the Golden Boy award after another wonderful year for the centre back.

His presence as captain in the heart of Ajax's defence last season cannot be underestimated as they won the Eredivisie, KNVB Cup and enjoyed a brilliant run to the semi-finals of the Champions League knocking out Real Madrid and Juventus along the way. 

The powerful centre back was also named Dutch Footballer of the Year ahead of former Ajax teammate Frenkie de Jong.

After a protracted transfer saga that dominated many of the summer's back pages, De Ligt moved to Juventus, where he has begun to form a formidable partnership with Leonardo Bonucci in the absence of the injured Giorgio Chiellini. 


1. Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid)

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Age: 19

Biggest achievement: Winning Primeira Liga with Benfica as well as Young Player of the Year

What a year it has been for Joao Felix.

The young forward burst onto the scene in 2018/19, quickly establishing himself as a key player for Portuguese champions Benfica. Often compared to the likes of Rui Costa, his 15 goals and nine assists ensured that Benfica held off the challenge of Porto to clinch the title by two points.

He was far from done there though. With Portugal through to the last four of the UEFA Nations League, Felix helped his side past Switzerland in the semi-finals, as the hosts beat the Netherlands to lift the inaugural trophy this summer.

He then moved to Atletico for a staggering €126m following Antoine Griezmann's exit (the second-highest ever paid for a teenager), and looks set to be a key member of Diego Simeone's team for the foreseeable future. 


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