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The kids are alright

From Michael to Thomas Muller… what happened to the last 7 World Cup Best Young Player winners?

Is winning the award a sure sign of success? It's pretty much a cert, judging by the last few winners

The World Cup is the biggest stage for a young player to prove their ability. It therefore follows that the winner of the World Cup Best Young Player award is pretty special.

But does that youthful potentially always translate to a career at the pinnacle of world football?

We looked back on the last seven recipients of the honour to see how their careers panned out.



Italy 1990- Robert Prosinecki

Prosinecki was part of former Yugoslavia’s golden generation, along with the likes of Davor Suker and Zvonimir Boban.

He won the European Cup with Red Star Belgrade, picked up domestic cups with Real Madrid and Barcelona, and lifted three consecutive league titles in Croatia with Dinamo Zagreb.

But he’ll be most fondly remembered on these shores for his performances for Portsmouth during the 2001/02 season. Never has the second division looked so graceful.



USA 1994- Marc Overmars

It says a lot about Overmars’ talent that he only made it to the quarter-finals of USA ’94, but still managed to pick up the award.

He joined Arsenal three years later, having won three Dutch league titles and the Champions League with Ajax.

Three titles in three seasons followed before Overmars left for Barcelona, where he failed to win any honours, but did play alongside Rivaldo. You win some, you lose some.



France 1998- Michael Owen

The ball from David Beckham. The first touch. The shimmy to beat Roberto Ayala. The finish past Carlos Roa. Owen’s goal against Argentina in ’98 had it all.

But injuries mean his career will always have a slight tint of unfulfilled potential, despite 89 caps for England, eight years at Liverpool, and spells with Real Madrid and Man United.

That said, he beat Raul, Francesco Totti, Luig Figo and Rivaldo to the Ballon d’Or in 2001. If only his hamstrings weren’t made of cheesestrings.



South Korea & Japan 2002- Landon Donovan 

Donovan has done it all when it comes to American football. He’s the leading scorer and assist provider for the national team, for whom he played 157 times.

But his forays into European club football haven’t been as successful.

A loan move to Bayern Munich was a disaster, but two loan stints at Everton showed he had the ability to thrive in Europe. Can you really blame Donovan for staying in the California sun?



Germany 2006- Lukas Podolski

Podolski just pipped a young Wayne Rooney to the award after starring in 2006 at the tender age of 21.

But, much like Donovan, he never was never quite comfortable at the top-level of club football, playing a bit-part role at Bayern Munich and Arsenal.

There’s no arguing with 129 caps for Germany and a World Cup medal though.



South Africa 2010- Thomas Muller

The ultimate dark horse. Is he quick? No. Particularly technical? No. Powerful? Not really.

But Muller’s mastery of space and timing has seen him win five league titles, the Champions League, countless domestic honours and a World Cup with Germany, for whom he’s won 83 caps.

Blink and you’ll miss him. Look and you’ll probably miss him. But don’t worry, he’s there.



Brazil 2014- Paul Pogba

Pogba’s development has been hampered by the world-record fee Man United spent to bring him back from Juventus.

But he’s got the character, and undoubtedly the skill, to carry France’s best generation of players since Zinedine Zidane and co.

His big-game temperament will have to improve- and it will under Jose Mourinho- but give the man time, he’s only 23.



Russia 2018- ?

Our money is on Gabriel Jesus, who’ll be just 21, to win the award in Russia.

He’s already spearheading Brazil’s attack, supplied by Neymar and Philippe Coutinho, and appears the only striker good enough to lead Tite’s side.

Gabriel Barbosa’s integration at Inter could have something to say for that but, for now, all roads lead to Jesus.