Golden Boys
Bellingham among the favorites for young player award
Published: Sep 23, 2021 05:28 PM
Jude Bellingham (left) of Borussia Dortmund and Rani Khedira of Union Berlin battle for the ball on September 19 in Dortmund, Germany. Photo: VCG

Jude Bellingham (left) of Borussia Dortmund and Rani Khedira of Union Berlin battle for the ball on September 19 in Dortmund, Germany. Photo: VCG

We might only be weeks into the new season but it is already nearing the time for the individual awards for the year to be decided.

The annual Golden Boy award is the first of them to head toward a winner after Italian media outlet Tuttosport announced the 40-player longlist that will soon become the best player aged 21 and under for the year, cut down from a list of 100 published back in July.

That list of 40 is now subject to a public vote and the 20 top vote earners will be announced on October 15.

Since it was established in 2003 and handed to Rafael van der Vaart, there have been some big names among the winners - Wayne Rooney in 2004, Lionel Messi in 2005, and Kylian Mbappe in 2017, to name a few - but now the question is who is next?

The argument is that there are no standout candidates this time around, certainly not like last season's winner Erling Braut Haaland of Borussia Dortmund, but there are fans of his teammate Jude Bellingham.

The England international is among the favorites and one of his senior teammates, German FIFA World Cup winner Mats Hummels, is among his biggest cheerleaders.

"He is the most mature 18-year-old player I have ever seen," the veteran Borussia Dortmund defender told broadcaster DAZN recently.

"Jude is already someone who leads the way and he's also one of the loudest in the team."

Hummels said that he has not been shy in letting the teenager, who moved to the Bundesliga from boyhood club Birmingham City, know how he feels.

"He's a great kid, I think I've told him about 25 times now that I just love him."

Bellingham has plenty of fans from the players that he has swiftly made his peers in a meteoric rise from the academy at St Andrews to Gareth Southgate's England team.

"He's a fantastic player," fellow England international Jordam Henderson said recently.

"Even at such a young age he shows fantastic maturity on and off the field. You can see how hungry he is to be a top player and has all the attributes to do that," said the Liverpool skipper.

"I was trying to help as much as I could but to be honest he is a top player who has shown that in the big games for Dortmund. I see him going from strength to strength all the time.

"I don't want to praise him too much and put too much pressure on him but he has a very good head on his shoulders, I'm told he has good people around him and a good family, and you can see that is an important part of him. I think he will be a top player going forward."

Bellingham played 46 times for the German side last season and he scored four times, including a goal in the Champions League knockout stage against Manchester City.

He has been in even better form this season with the 18-year-old having scored twice in eight games and fueling speculation on his next destination after Dortmund, with both Manchester United and Liverpool strongly linked with bringing him to the English Premier League.

That is for the future and the immediate horizon is with the Bundesliga club and potentially joining his teammate Haaland on the illustrious list of Golden Boy winners.

To do so he will have to beat off stiff competition from some of the other standouts on the 40-player shortlist.

Pedri - Barcelona

It has been some year for the ­Canary Islands-born midfielder who arrived at Barcelona from Las Palmas in 2020. The 18-year-old became a mainstay for the Camp Nou side as he linked up with Messi and his season appeared to never end as he first went to Euro 2020 with the national side and then to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, where he helped Spain to silver in the final loss to Brazil. Pedri has been back in action already for Ronald Koeman and he is one of the few bright spots for a troubled Barcelona.

Mason Greenwood - Manchester United

The England international had a difficult second season at Manchester United and struggled to find the net in the first half of the 2020-21 campaign but he kicked on after the turn of the year, finding his form as Ole Gunnar Solksjaer's side slid into second. This season - after putting aside the disappointment of missing out on Euro 2020 with the Three Lions - Greenwood made a strong start and scored in all the opening three games of the season. There are question marks over his first-team opportunities now Cristiano Ronaldo has returned but so far Greenwood has staked his claim.

Eduardo Camavinga - Real Madrid 

The French midfielder has been on the radar of Europe's biggest clubs since he established himself as a starter for Stade Rennais as a 16-year-old and this summer he made the move to Real Madrid. The 18-year-old has hit the ground running at the Bernabeu, having scored once in his first two games in La Liga and making his UEFA Champions League debut with the 13-time winners.

Jamal Musiala - Bayern Munich

The former England youth international has picked Germany and the 18-year-old already seems like a loss for Southgate's side. This season has seen him go from strength to strength after Julien Nagelsmann has taken over at the Allianz Arena and Musiala has been a key player for the Bavarians. He has scored twice in four league games as well as two in the DFB Pokal, plus an appearance in the Champions League.

Florian Wirtz -Bayer Leverkusen

The young German forward is the latest off the production line at the Bundesliga side and he is having an impressive season. Last weekend he helped his 10-man side to a win at Stuttgart and he has three goals in four league games plus goals in the Europa League and the German Cup. The 18-year-old burst onto the scene last season and has been linked with Bayern Munich.
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