Football Features

The 2010 Golden Boy nominees list: Where are they now?

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 19:16, 21 August 2020 | Updated: 19:29, 21 August 2022

Time flies when you’re having fun.

There are not many better examples of this than looking back at the 2010 Golden Boy award to see the nominees, which includes a list of 10 names that Tuttosport deemed to be that year’s most promising talents in Europe (entrants have to be under 21).

How many of them proved to be golden? How many went on to dominate the world game? Where are they now? We decided to see what has become of them all, a decade on.

James Rodriguez

Team in 2010: Banfield
Trophies won: 2009 Apertura, Primeira Liga (3), 2011 Taca de Portugal, 2011 Europa League; La Liga (2), Champions League (2), 2020 Supercopa Espana, UEFA Super Cup (2), Club World Cup (2), Bundesliga (2), 2019 DFB-Pokal.

Where is he now? James is at Al-Rayyan, where he’s already notched five goals and seven assists in 15 matches. That follows a spell in England with Everton where James was the creative dynamo for Carlo Ancelotti — oh how things have changed so fast at Goodison Park. The Colombian’s move to Everton marked the end of a decade where he’s gone from a prodigy to a superstar to a flop. It’s been a rollercoaster for everyone’s favourite matinee idol.

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Joel Matip

Team in 2010: Schalke
Trophies won: 2011 DFB-Pokal, 2011 DFL-Supercup, 2019 Champions League, 2019 UEFA Super Cup, 2020 Premier League, 2022 FA Cup, 2022 EFL Cup.

Where is he now? Matip is at Liverpool, where he’s an injury-riddled back-up centre-back in one of the most dominant sides in the world. Matip’s shine appeared to dim at Schalke, but a move to Merseyside has resulted in tremendous success.

Romelu Lukaku

Team in 2010: Anderlecht
Trophies won: 2010 Belgian Pro League, 2021 Serie A, 2021 FIFA Club World Cup.

Where is he now? Lukaku is back at Inter Milan. The brilliant Belgian was kept on the backburner by Chelsea for years before working his way up the Premier League to Manchester United and then eventually moving to Italy. He fit Serie A perfectly and hammered home the goals in record volume for the Nerazzurri, firing them to the title in 2021. Chelsea brought him back to Stamford Bridge but it quickly became clear that this is just a match made in hell. Back to Milan he went.

Eden Hazard

Team in 2010: Lille
Trophies won: 2011 Ligue 1, 2011 Coupe de France, Premier League (2), 2015 League Cup, 2018 FA Cup, Europa League (2), La Liga (2), 2022 Champions League, 2022 Spanish Super Cup, 2022 UEFA Super Cup.

Where is he now? Hazard is at Real Madrid. The second brilliant Belgian on 2010’s shortlist was a hot prospect at Lille, who he led to a Ligue 1 title a year later. His belated (and expensive) move to Madrid hasn’t worked out so far, where he’s looked far from the lightning bolt he was with Chelsea on the rare occasions he’s been fit at the Bernabeu. But given his absurd talent, you’d be a fool to count him out just yet. Even now.


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Federico Macheda

Team in 2010: Manchester United
Trophies won: 2009 Premier League*, 2010 League Cup, 2022 Greek Cup.

Where is he now? Macheda is at Ankaragücü. One of the supporting stars in Man Utd’s 2009 title triumph has never really hit the heights of his debut and has milled around Europe for various clubs before finally finding success in Greece with Panathinaikos. A return of 40 goals in 116 games for I Prasini is quite successful and help the club lift the 2022 Greek Cup.

Mario Gotze

Team in 2010: Borussia Dortmund
Trophies won: Bundesliga (5), DFB-Pokal (4), 2013 UEFA Super Cup, 2013 Club World Cup, 2014 FIFA World Cup, 2019 DFL-Supercup, 2021 Johan Cruyff Shield, 2022 KNVB Cup.

Where is he now? Gotze is at Eintracht Frankfurt. The Dortmund wunderkind thrilled the world under Jurgen Klopp and then Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich. He’s also achieved the considerable feat of scoring a World Cup-winning goal. But he’s never been the same since that afternoon in Rio, and injuries have plagued him during his whole second spell with Dortmund. They let his contract expire in the summer of 2020 and PSV snagged him. Gotze recounted his earlier years during his Eredivisie stay, so much so that he earned a move back to Germany with Europa League champions Eintracht Frankfurt.

Gael Kakuta

Team in 2010: Chelsea
Trophies won: n/a

Where is he now? Kakuta is at Lens. The DR Congo international was once a blisteringly hot prospect coming through the Chelsea youth academy after being poached from Lens. He seemed destined for the top, but for whatever reason, it never really worked out for him, anywhere. But now he’s back at Lens (on loan) and has 14 goals and eight assists in 67 appearances across all competitions.

Miralem Pjanic

Team in 2010: Lyon
Trophies won: Serie A (4), Coppa Italia (2), 2018 Supercoppa Italiana, 2021 Turkish Super Cup, 2021 Copa del Rey.

Where is he now? Pjanic is at Barcelona. The Bosnian joined the Catalan side in 2020 after a bizarre transfer motivated by the FFP needs of both the Blaugrana and Juventus. Pjanic had been tremendous in Italy, both for Juve and first Roma, and in France too. In Spain? Not so much — he was even loaned out to Besiktas last season.

Philippe Coutinho

Team in 2010: Inter Milan
Trophies won: 2010 Supercoppa Italiana, 2011 Coppa Italia, 2011 U-20 World Cup, La Liga (2), Copa del Rey (2), 2018 Supercopa de Espana, 2019 Copa America, 2020 Bundesliga, 2020 DFB-Pokal, 2020 Champions League.

Where is he now? Coutinho is at Aston Villa. The Brazilian was a flop at Inter, rehabilitated at Espanyol, then had tremendous success at Liverpool. His form at Anfield sealed a huge move to Barcelona, but he ultimately proved an expensive flop before becoming a successful but merely adequate squad player at Bayern Munich. Coutinho once again rebounded on loan at Aston Villa but has struggled somewhat since making the move permanent — playing under former Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard.

And the winner…

Mario Balotelli

Team in 2010: Inter Milan
Trophies won: Serie A (3), 2008 Supercoppa Italiana, 2010 Coppa Italia, 2010 Champions League, 2011 FA Cup, 2012 Premier League

Where is he now? Balotelli is currently at Adana Demirspor. The intense Italian began the decade by winning the Treble and being named Golden Boy. He then moved to England and helped Manchester City win their first-ever Premier League title and finished joint-top scorer at Euro 2012 (where he was also in the Team of the Tournament). Just two years in and this looked like it could be Balotelli’s decade.

But that was as good as it got. Performances dipped in Manchester, arguments with just about everyone followed and he left. Meandering around Europe, he didn’t stay anywhere more than two seasons and only once topped 20 goals in a season (with Nice). His stay in Turkey has been successful so far with Balotelli scoring 19 goals in 34 appearances across all competitions.

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