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The 40 man shortlist for the 2014 Golden Boy (the award for the best under-21 player in Europe) has been released, and we’ve ranked our ten favourites for the prestigious gong.
10) Arkadiusz Milik – Ajax (on loan from Bayer Leverkusen)
Milik’s already bagged four goals for Poland, and has scored nine goals in eight starts this season for loan club Ajax – including six in one match in the Dutch Cup for the reserve side!
9) Munir – Barcelona
The young Spaniard has broken through the ranks at Barcelona this season, and even won a cap for the full Spanish national team to boot. With Luis Suarez returned from suspension though, his game time could be limited.
8) Luke Shaw – Manchester United
The world’s most expensive fullback, despite being just 19-years-old. Shaw made the monstrous £27m move during the summer, but has yet to properly settle in at Old Trafford.
7) Matteo Kovacic – Inter Milan
Kovacic is a ludicrously talented midfielder with exceptional technical ability. He currently starts for Inter Milan and Croatia, for whom he’s already won 17 caps.
6) Max Meyer – Schalke
Meyer is in the same mould as Julien Draxler and Mario Gotze, and the ball sticks to his feet when he dribbles. He’s won a cap for his country already, and is the latest in a long line of superb attacking midfielders they seem to be producing.
5) Aymeric Laporte – Athletic Bilbao
Rated by many as the world’s best young centre-back, Laporte is one of the first names on Athletic’s team-sheet, despite being only 20-years-old.
4) Hakan Calhanoglu – Bayer Leverkusen
Leverkusen did superbly to snare this superb Turkish playmaker from HSV during the summer. Calhonoglu is deadly from set-pieces, and has both the vision and the passing range to create chances for teammates seemingly at will. Many have likened him to a young Mesut Ozil as a result.
3) Marquinhos – PSG
The Brazilian moved to PSG in the summer of 2013 after performing outstandingly for Roma, but he struggled to immediately make an impact in France. Due to Thiago Silva’s injury this term though, Marquinhos has been one of the first names on the team-sheet, and he’s put in a series of mature defensive performances that have belied his age.
2) Domenico Berardi – Sassuolo
Berardi took Serie A by storm last term, bagging 16 top flight goals. This season, he’s bagged two already, cementing his reputation as probably the best Under-21 striker in the world right now.
1) Raheem Sterling – Liverpool
An Englishman has a very realistic chance of winning the award for the first time this year. Sterling bagged nine Premier League goals last season, firing the Reds to within inches of the title. He also was England’s best player at the World Cup, despite not turning 20 until December. If he’s nurtured properly, the youngster has the talented to emulate some of the previous Golden Ball winners such as Mario Gotze and Lionel Messi.