Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, William Saliba and Trae Coyle have all been included on the 100-player shortlist for the 2020 Golden Boy award, run by the Italian publication Tuttosport and awarded by European journalists to the best footballer under the age of 21 playing in Europe.
Saka (3 goals and 9 assists) and Martinelli (10 goals and 4 assists) – both 18 – have enjoyed breakthrough campaigns at the Emirates, featuring regularly at home and abroad under Unai Emery, Freddie Ljungberg and Mikel Arteta. Given their impact at senior level, their nominations hardly come as a surprise.
The same can be said of Saliba who recovered from an early-season injury to become a big part of St Etienne’s defence. The 19-year-old joined the Gunners in a £20 million deal last summer before returning on loan to the Geoffrey Stadium. With Ligue 1 cancelled, we expect to see him at London Colney in July although he won’t be eligible to play until next season.
Coyle’s inclusion speaks to how highly-rated he is within the game. While the 19-year-old is yet to make his Arsenal debut, the versatile attacking midfielder has been training with the first team squad in recent weeks and could soon get his chance with five games in 15 days set to stretch the usual stars.
Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock made last year’s long-list while Matteo Guendouzi finished in the top 20. You won’t find too many squads featuring eight nominees from the last couple of seasons. It’s certainly something that bodes well for the future.
After a public vote (cast yours now) the 2020 list will be cut to 20 names with the winner usually announced in December. Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland, Barcelona’s Ansu Fati and Bayern winger Alphonso Davies full-back are amongst the favourites.
For the record, Cesc Fabregas is the only former Gunner to have won the award since its inauguration in 2003. The Spaniard won the gong in 2006, impressing for Arsenal on the road to the Champions League final.