Tag Archives: Cesc Fabregas

Golden Boy award winners – Ranked

It was announced earlier this week that Barcelona youngster Pedri was the winner of the 19th edition of the coveted ‘Golden Boy’ award.

The award is handed to the best Under-21 player in Europe’s top leagues based on a vote by sports journalists, based on the performances during the calendar year.

Looking through the list of previous winners, there have been some hits and misses as to how their careers ended up. But who is the best? Who is the worst? I’ve ranked them all, starting with the worst.

Alexandre Pato

The Brazilian was one of the most exciting prospects to come out of Brazil when he joined AC Milan but after an impressive couple of years, injuries took their toll and Pato never made the impact he was meant to. It might strike you to realise he is only 32 these days, but plays in the MLS with Orlando.


If you look at Anderson’s CV, there’s an argument that he shouldn’t be this low down. But when you consider that injuries absolutely battered him throughout his career and most of those accolades came due to being part of an amazing squad, he has to be near the bottom.

All Golden Boy winners from 2003 and where they are now, including,  Balotelli, Renato Sanches and Haaland – The Sun

Mario Balotelli

The Italian broke onto the scene with Inter Milan, but a career that has been clouded in controversy didn’t go without it’s moments. The ‘Why Always Me?’, the fireworks, the fights with the manager are balanced out with the assist for *that* Aguero goal and his Euro 2012 performances get him off the bottom.

Anthony Martial

The Manchester United man is only 25-years-old as of this writing, but he’s really failed to kick on since winning this award in 2015. He’s lost that X-factor he had when he first moved to Old Trafford and while he’s got time to turn it around still, at his current trajectory he’d be considered a disappointment.

Rafael Van der Vaart

The inaugral winner of the award was a star for Ajax before earning himself a move to Real Madrid via Hamburg. But under the brightest of lights he struggled to really make an impact and the rest of his career was spent as being the best player in relatively mediocre sides.

CM: Sanches on the move; Jorge Mendes' plan with AC Milan

Renato Sanches

The star of a young Benfica side who helped Portugal to their first ever international trophy at Euro 2016, Sanches looked destined for greatness. A poor move to Bayern Munich and injuries have stalled his development and while he finally looks to be getting back to a high level, it’s too early to have him above some of these guys in the list.

Mario Gotze

There may not be a more iconic career moment from anyone on this list than Gotze scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final during extra-time in 2014. Since then though it’s been downhill, with injuries and a loss of form seeing him become a shadow of his former self. He’s only 29 now, but he plays for PSV in the Eredivisie.


2021’s winner gets into this list at this height simply because it’s far too early to put him any higher or lower. His career has been strictly high points thus far, becoming a key member of the Barcelona team and putting in amazing performances during Euro 2020 to help Spain to the semi-finals. If he continues at this level, he will be one of the best in the world without a doubt.

Matthijs De Ligt

The only defender to win the award, De Ligt is still considered one of the best young defenders in the world. After helping Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals as their teenage captain, he earned a move to Juventus where he’s failed to rip up any trees but has maintained a steady level of performances. There’s definitely more to come from the Dutchman.

João Félix has already received the Golden Boy Award! - SL Benfica

Joao Felix

Felix blew up with his performances for Benfica in the Europa League and earned a nine-figure move to Atletico Madrid. Since moving though, injuries and a style of play that doesn’t really suit him have seen him stagnate. We’ve seen some top level performances in that time though, so we know the talent is still there.


The Spanish playmaker was a superstar in the making and was a key member of the Spain and Real Madrid side for years, with his brilliant guile and technical ability on show regularly. He’s won it all but the last few years have seen him barely touch the pitch and that will affect his legacy somewhat. A top player though, without doubt.

Erling Haaland

2020’s winner is currently regarded as one of the best strikers in the world despite being just the tender age of 21. His phenomenal goalscoring record has got everyone’s attention and the ease with which he’s taken to top level football is a sight to behold. He has got a long and successful career ahead of him, without a doubt.

Two Liverpool players make shortlist for Golden Boy award - with one former  Reds youngster nominated - Liverpool Echo

Raheem Sterling

The Manchester City and England winger won the award during his time at Anfield as a Liverpool player and hasn’t looked back since. He is the City player with the most goals under Pep Guardiola, has won everything at club level except the Champions League and even helped England to their best tournament finish since 1966 at Euro 2020. A superstar.

Paul Pogba

Despite his time in England since returning to Manchester United splitting opinions on him, Pogba’s talent is and always has been undeniable. He broke into a title winning Juventus team, is a leader at international level and scored in a World Cup final. His United stint may be up for debate, but his career is not.

Cesc Fabregas

Fabregas has had success everywhere he has been until he moved to Monaco, but the levels he reached during his prime have him down as one of the best midfielders of his generation. He won everything there is to win at club level and international level, while being a key player in every success and will be remembered greatly despite the winding down of his career at a relatively young age.

Pin on My Boy

Sergio Aguero

The man with the most iconic moment in Premier League history, Aguero’s legacy as a world class footballer is undeniable. He is the player with the most hat-tricks in Premier League history, the most goals in Man City history, the most goals by a foreign player in Premier League history and he’s top three goalscorers in Argentinian national team history. Unfortunately forced to retire early due to heart problems, but he will go down as a great.

Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe is only 22-years-old at the time of writing this, but his legacy is already solidified. He won the league with Monaco as a teenager against a dominant PSG side, then switched to Paris to become a cornerstone of their recent success. He’s won golden boots, trophies and even became the youngest player since Pele to score in a World Cup final. The scary thing is, he’s only getting better too.

Wayne Rooney

It’s crazy to think that some people believe Wayne Rooney never fulfilled his potential despite ending his career as the all-time top goalscorer for Manchester United and England. He won it all at club level, playing several positions and is the owner of several iconic moments. A world class footballer and one of the best his country has ever produced, he was a true golden boy.

GOAL on Twitter: "Lionel Messi winning the European Golden Boy trophy back  in 2005 🏆 https://t.co/Iumxd5UBpi" / Twitter

Lionel Messi

There was no other option for the number one ranking of this award, because the greatest player of all-time won it back in 2005. The only ‘Golden Boy’ to go on to win the Ballon d’Or, he has gone on to do everything except win a World Cup and his legacy will transcend generations. Without a doubt the greatest I’ve ever seen, it’s a no brainer that he sits at number one on this list.

Remembering Greatness: Cesc Fabregas

It’s not often a player’s greatness is forgotten while they’re still playing in one of Europe’s top five leagues, but that seems to be what has happened to Cesc Fabregas.

The former Premier League, La Liga, European Championship and World Cup winner has got one of the greatest resumes in football, and yet is so often left out of the conversation when it comes to discussing who the best of his generation are.

When it comes to box-to-box midfielders or just outright playmakers, there aren’t many better than the former Arsenal, Chelsea and Barcelona man.

After signing for Arsenal from the Barcelona academy as a teenager, Fabregas broke into the first-team at the tender age of just 16. He made his debut in the League Cup during the ‘Invincibles’ and scored in a later round in the tournament to become the club’s youngest ever player and goalscorer.

He wasn’t given a league winners medal that season, but in his second year in England as a 17-year-old he established himself as a senior first-team player and an established member of the squad.

He made 46 appearances in all competitions, including 33 games in the Premier League. He became the club’s youngest ever goalscorer in a league game and was praised for performances where he was filling in for the injured Patrick Vieira. His performances were enough to earn him a regular place in the side by the end of the season, rotating in and out and he even started the FA Cup final win over Manchester United to earn the first trophy of his career.

His importance only grew along with his reputation, and when Vieira left the club for Juventus Arsene Wenger placed his trust in the young Spaniard. In the first season of him being the first-choice central midfielder, Fabregas took on the famous number 4 shirt at the club and inserted his own style of play on the team.

As a less physical and imposing player than Vieira, Fabregas used intricate passing and incredible technique to dictate the tempo in midfield alongside Gilberto Silva which greatly impressed many especially in Europe.

Fabregas scored and assisted as Arsenal defeated Juventus and Real Madrid in the Champions League knockout stages en route to reaching the final, where they were beaten by Barcelona thanks to two late goals. His importance, if not already clear, was evident when Jens Lehmann was sent off early on and Wenger decided to take off the experienced Robert Pires instead of the 18-year-old diminutive Spaniard.

Fabregas would go on to become the captain and talisman of the club during his time at the Emirates before a long, drawn out transfer saga with his boyhood club Barcelona saw a move take place in the summer of 2011.

Barça paid £30million while Fabregas agreed to pay Arsenal just under £1m-a-year from his wages to help fund the deal such was his desperation to return.

He came at the end of Pep Guardiola’s run of dominance, but was only used as a bit-part player for the most part. When playing in a central midfield role he didn’t provide the quality that Guardiola was used to from Xavi and Andres Iniesta, which led to Guardiola often using him in one of the more advanced positions as a false 9.

His relationship with Lionel Messi was breathtaking though, as the two La Masia graduates were seemingly always on the same wavelength. Fabregas’ preference for playing the killer ball in behind or through the lines as opposed to Xavi and Iniesta’s way of breaking a team down seemed to suit the Argentine to a tee as he enjoyed the two best goalscoring seasons of his career playing with Fabregas.

When Barcelona brought in Neymar under Gerardo Martino, Fabregas played more times than in any other season at the Camp Nou. Despite all the game time, and finishing the season with 13 goals and 17 assists the Spaniard was unhappy.

He sought a move back to Arsenal but when the club turned down the chance to re-sign him, he ended up signing for Jose Mourinho and Chelsea after asking Barcelona to let him go.

At Stamford Bridge he was used as a more deep-lying playmaker and formed a sensational partnership with striker Diego Costa as he registered 24 assists in all competitions. That season Chelsea won the double as Fabregas won his first Premier League title and League Cup.

At 27-years-old, Fabregas’ body was starting to slow down. He struggled in the next season as Mourinho was sacked and then wasn’t high energy enough for Antonio Conte’s midfield in the 3-4-3 system he deployed. That didn’t stop him securing 15 assists in all competitions that season as Chelsea won the title again, with Fabregas often called upon to unlock tight games from the bench.

His career has dwindled since then, but let it not be forgotten just how good he was.

Fabregas was a key member of the Spain team who pulled off an unprecedented three-peat of international tournaments, winning Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. It was he who played the killer pass in to Iniesta for the World Cup winning goal, something that will forever go down in his nation’s history.

His tremendous vision, expert passing, wonderful technique and determination despite his diminutive frame made him one of the best central midfielders the Premier League has ever seen. To this day he remains one of just four players to have over 100 assists in the Premier League, but when you break it down his numbers are astonishing.

Ryan Giggs sits top of that chart with 162 assists in 632 games. Frank Lampard is fourth with 102 assists in 609 appearances and Wayne Rooney is third with 103 in 491 appearances. Then you have Fabregas, who sits second with 111 in only 350 appearances in England’s top flight.

The only thing missing from his honours list is a Champions League trophy but that shouldn’t take away from just how good this guy was. For my money, the greatest playmaker the Premier League has ever seen.

His career at the top level started early so also finished early, but Fabregas is a player who should remembered for generations to come.