THE mantra 'talent is not indicative of success' is perhaps most applicable when discussing Golden Boy awards of years past.
For every Lionel Messi that delivered on the promise placed on them as a youngster, there was an Anderson who never really made the grade.
The Golden Boy award, run by Italian publication Tuttosport, recognises the best players Under-21 in Europe – and was won by Borussia Dortmund wonderkid Erling Haaland in a strong 2020.
Eleven years ago, in 2009, there was an unusually talented-looking group of stars nominated – but not all have lived up to the hype.
Alexandre Pato beat 39 other nominees to scoop the coveted gong that year, with injuries ensuring he failed to live up to his 'next big thing' tag.
However, the Italian outlet were right to put their faith in the likes of promising youngsters Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale, and Aaron Ramsey.
And SunSport have compiled our best XI of the players nominated back then to see if there were any other picks that didn't age quite as well.
GK – Mario Balotelli
Tuttosport didn't believe any goalkeeper under the age of 21 to be worthy of a spot in its top 40 in 2009, so madcap Mario Balotelli will have to suffice.
The maverick Italian can consider himself unlucky not to be chosen in his natural position but poor discipline and off-field antics meant his career never quite hit the heights expected of him.
After bursting onto the scene at Inter Milan, he became a Premier League winner with Manchester City, before enduring a miserable spell at Liverpool.
Super Mario recently signed for Serie B side Monza after leaving Brescia in the summer, remaining a free agent until earlier this month.
RB – Rafael
Rafael earns his way into the side by default as the only right-back nominated.
The Manchester United prospect became a three-time Premier League winner during ten years at Old Trafford, but fell out-of-favour after Sir Alex Ferguson's shock retirement in 2013, and was sold to Lyon two years later.
He is now at Istanbul Basaksehir – who beat United in the Champions League earlier this season.
CB – Simon Kjaer
Sevilla defender Kjaer was named 2009 Danish Talent of the Year ahead of Spurs star Christian Eriksen, a year after he debuted for Palermo.
The centre-back currently captains the Denmark national team, but has never seemed to settle at one club, enduring spells at Wolfsburg, Roma, and Lille.
He has been at Serie A leaders AC Milan since the summer.
CB – Holger Badstuber
Once described by Louis van Gaal as the best left-footed defender in Germany, Bastuber saw a career full of promise derailed by injuries.
The 31-year-old, who was on the books at Bayern Munich for almost 15 years, finally joined Stuggart on a free-transfer in 2017.
Despite his stop-start progress, Badstuber still won six Bundesliga titles, and the 2013 Champions League during his time in Munich.
As of today, Badstuber is currently playing for Stuttgart's second XI, who play in FOURTH tier of German football.
LB – Davide Santon
Santon, perhaps best remembered by English fans for the indifferent four years he spent at Newcastle, was once touted as one of Italy's hottest young talents.
The 29-year-old is still a two-time Serie A and Champions League winner after his time under Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan.
Yet he returned to the Nerazzurri as a shell of the player he once was, having lost his place at Newcastle to Paul Dummett after falling out with Alan Pardew.
He's been at Roma since 2018.
CM – Toni Kroos
Real Madrid's maestro midfielder has delivered on all the expectations put on him since he was awarded the Golden Ball award at the Under-17 World Cup in 2007.
The serial winner has won both LaLiga, and Bundesliga, while adding multiple Champions League titles and the 2014 World Cup to his outstanding haul.
CM – Aaron Ramsey
The Juventus star's rise to the top is all the more impressive considering the effort it took to rebuild his career following the broken leg he suffered against Stoke.
Welshman Ramsey was also instrumental in ending Arsenal's trophy drought during the eleven years he spent in North London.
He is now plying his trade in Serie A with Juventus.
CAM – Thomas Muller
The only one-club man in the team, Muller has won everything there is to win in German football in the decade-plus he's spent at Bayern Munich.
The versatile forward is still adored at the Allianz Arena and finished as Joachim Low's top goalscorer during Germany's World Cup win in 2014.
Muller was an integral part of Bayern's famous treble-winning side from last season, winning the Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB-Pokal.
RW – Gareth Bale
The Welsh wizard became the then-biggest transfer signing in history when he moved to the Bernabeu in 2013 for £86million following his stunning POTY campaign with Spurs.
Bale is now back at Tottenham on loan after being frozsen out by Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane – but has failed to rediscover anything even resembling his top form.
But he should still be greatly respected for the four Champions League crowns he won during that spell, including a spectacular bicycle kick against Liverpool in 2018.
ST – Daniel Sturridge
Sturridge was still on the books at Chelsea at the time, but it was Liverpool where he cemented his reputation as one of England's most lethal strikers.
Injuries robbed the striker of fulfilling his huge potential, but Reds still fondly remember his incredible SAS partnership with Luis Suarez that took the Anfield club to within an inch of a first Premier League title.
He is a free agent after having his contract with Trabzonspor terminated when he accepted a ban for betting breaches.
LW – Eden Hazard
Hailed as 'one of the most talented players I've ever seen' by then-teammate Joe Cole, Hazard became Ligue 1's first two-time YPOTY after exploding onto the scene at Lille.
The Belgian's talent and breathtaking skill — with a bit of encouragement from Cole too — led to a £32million move to Chelsea in 2012.
And following a glittering trophy-laden seven years at Stamford Bridge, Hazard sealed a dream £150million move to Real Madrid earlier last summer.
But things haven't panned out well for Hazard, who has been unable to keep himself fit enough to enjoy a decent run of games in nearly 18 months – playing just 19 times in LaLiga, scoring twice.
Full Golden Boy 2009 nominees
Dominic Adiyah (Fredrikstad FK, Ghana)
Jozy Altidore (Hull City, USA)
Holger Badstuber (Bayern München, Germany)
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur, Wales)
Mario Balotelli (Internazionale, Italy)
Franco Di Santo (Blackburn Rovers, Argentine)
Giovani dos Santos (Tottenham, Hotspur, Mexico)
Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow, Russia)
Fernando Forestieri (Málaga, Argentine)
Timo Gebhart (VfB Stuttgart, Germany)
Eden Hazard (Lille, Belgium)
Emilio Insua (Liverpool, Argentine)
Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina, Montenegro)
Simon Kjaer (Palermo, Denmark)
Vladimir Koman (Bari, Hungary)
Bojan Krkic (Barcelona, Spain)
Toni Kroos (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany)
Federico Macheda (Manchester United, Italy)
Marko Marin (Werder Bremen, Germany)
Thomas Muller (Bayern München, Germany)
Iker Muniain (Athletic Bilbao, Spain)
Tomas Necid (CSKA Moskou, Czech Republic)
Alberto Paloschi (Parma, Italy)
Dani Parejo (Getafe, Spain)
Javier Pastore (Palermo, Argentine)
Alexandre Pato (AC Milan, Brazil) WINNER
Pablo Piatti (Almería, Argentine)
Miralem Pjanic (Olympique Lyon, Bosnia-Herzegovina)
Andrea Poli (Sampdoria, Italy)
Rodrigo Possebon (Sporting Braga, Brazil)
Rafael Da Silva (Manchester United, Brazi)
Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal, Wales)
Ben Sahar (Espanyol, Israel)
Davide Santon (Internazionale, Italy)
Sidnei (Benfica, Brazil)
Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea, England)
Carlos Vela (Arsenal, Mexico)
Theo Walcott (Arsenal, England)
Danny Welbeck (Manchester United, England)
Franco Zuculini (TSG Hoffenheim, Argentine)
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