Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Football

What became of the World Cup’s award-winning young players?

Kylian Mbappe was the standout young performer in Russia.

Kylian Mbappe scored four goals in France’s World Cup-winning campaign in Russia, which earned the Best Young Player award.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at previous winners of the award and how their career progressed.

2014 – Paul Pogba, France

It is hard to imagine the world four years ago when Paul Pogba’s dance moves and haircuts weren’t a topic of debate.

Before the 2014 World Cup, a 21-year-old Pogba was just starting to establish himself after two seasons at Juventus. It was clear he had promise, but he was far from the finished article. Pogba’s lack of experience was evident in the first game, when he was fortunate to avoid a red card for kicking out at Honduras’ Wilson Palacios.

Not a regular pick for coach Didier Deschamps, he was dropped for France’s next match, but came off the bench to register an assist in the second half. Pogba scored in a match-winning performance against Nigeria in the last 16, before Les Bleus crashed out to Germany in the quarter-finals.

The tournament confirmed Pogba’s status as one of the world’s best young talents and his big-money move to Manchester United came two years later. He played a vital role in France’s midfield in Russia, scoring in the final.

2010 – Thomas Muller, Germany

bpanews_543ee67c-d555-4778-89b0-72b7e34ef874_embedded236755814
Thomas Muller celebrates scoring against England at the 2010 World Cup (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Few have taken the international stage by storm quite like Thomas Muller in his first World Cup. The then 20-year-old hadn’t even scored for Germany prior to the tournament, but went on to claim the Golden Boot and Best Young Player award.

The Bayern Munich man fired in five goals from just five shots on target in Germany’s run to the semi-final. Four years later, Germany went one better and won the World Cup, with Muller scoring five and assisting three.

Now 28, he has continued to be a key player in Bayern’s domestic dominance but struggled alongside his compatriots in Russia as Germany exited in the group stage.

2006 – Lukas Podolski, Germany

bpanews_543ee67c-d555-4778-89b0-72b7e34ef874_embedded23624205
Podolski in action for Germany against Poland at the 2006 World Cup (Martin Rickett/PA)

In Germany’s home tournament, a 21-year-old Podolski formed one half of a formidable strike partnership with born goalscorer Miroslav Klose. Podolski’s three goals helped him to win the Best Young Player award, while Klose’s five goals fired him to the Golden Boot. Germany got to within touching distance of the final, losing to Italy after extra-time in the semis.

Podolski’s efforts earned him a move from Cologne to Bayern Munich, where he spent three years before joining Arsenal. He remained a key figure in the Germany squad and was part of the team that triumphed in 2014. Now 33, he plays his football in Japan for Vissel Kobe.

2002 – Landon Donovan, United States

bpanews_543ee67c-d555-4778-89b0-72b7e34ef874_embedded27502740
Donovan in action for the US at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa (David Davies/PA)

The US entered the South Korea and Japan World Cup having won just four games in the tournament in the last 72 years. A remarkable run, including a 3-2 win over Portugal, saw the Americans reach the quarter-final.

Donovan, then 20 and playing for San Jose Earthquakes, scored in the Portugal win and headed in another against Mexico. The USA were eventually knocked out by Germany. It remains the USA’s best World Cup finish since 1930 and Donovan later went on to become the US national team’s all-time top scorer.

He moved to LA Galaxy in 2005 and is now the highest scorer in MLS history with 145 goals. The midfielder had two loan spells at Everton before returning to Los Angeles. He spent last season in Mexico with Leon.

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph