The last five recipients of the World Cup Young Player accolade

The World Cup in Qatar is gearing up for kick-off,

A Football Report
The last five recipients of the World Cup Young Player accolade

The World Cup in Qatar is gearing up for kick-off, with the hosts taking on Ecuador in the opening ceremony at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah on November 20 — a matchup the Middle East nation are expected to lose, according to the World Cup 2022 odds.

Aside from the football itself, one of the most exciting things about the World Cup is the emergence of up-and-coming stars battling it out for the Young Player of the Tournament award. Some quality players have won it in the past, and as the likes of Pedri, Jude Bellingham and Gavi look to add their names to the list of honours, let’s take stock of the last five recipients.

2018: Kylian Mbappe

After a breakthrough season on loan at Paris Saint-Germain from Monaco, scoring 21 times and registering 16 assists in 46 games across all competitions before becoming the most expensive teenager of all time once he completed a permanent move to PSG, Kylian Mbappe wasn’t exactly an unknown entity heading into the World Cup. And despite the weight of expectation to perform in Russia, the then 19-year-old rose to the occasion, scoring four and assisting one as France won the tournament for a second time. His performance in the knockout stages against Argentina, scoring twice and assisting, is a memorable one.

2014: Paul Pogba

The second Frenchman to ever win the Young Player of the Tournament award, Paul Pogba landed the personal accolade in 2016. With over 10 caps already to his name, a 21-year-old Pogba featured in all five of Les Bleus’ games in Brazil — starting all but one, a group game against Switzerland in which he came off the bench to grab an assist in. He scored his first World Cup goal in the round of 16 against Nigeria (2-0) before France suffered a 1-0 defeat to Germany in the quarters. Pogba returned to Manchester United for a world record of £89 million later that summer.

2010: Thomas Muller

A 20-year-old Thomas Muller scooped the award in South Africa. Going into the World Cup relatively inexperienced with just two Germany caps under his belt, the Bayern Munich forward performed much better than anybody could have expected — scoring five and assisting three as he pipped the more experienced David Villa and Diego Forlan to the Golden Boot. Muller ended the group with a goal and two assists, before bagging two more strikes and setting up another against England in the round of 16. His other two goals came in the quarter-final defeat to Argentina and the third-place match against Uruguay, which Germany won 3-2.

2006: Lukas Podolski

Muller’s success in 2010 was actually the first time in World Cup history that two players from the same nation won successive Young Player awards, as Lukas Podolski won it four years prior on home soil. In what was his second major competition with Germany, after being involved in the squad that failed to make it out of the groups at Euro 2004, Podolski was already somewhat of a seasoned pro by this World Cup — having 25 caps, 12 goals and four assists to his name. He added to that with three goals at the 2006 World Cup as a 21-year-old.

2002: Landon Donovan

The first — and still to this day only — American to ever win the Young Player award, Landon Donovan landed the accolade at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea/Japan. Like Podolski, Donovan already had a wealth of experience under his belt — featuring over 20 times for the US, including at the 2002 Gold Cup. He got an assist in his nation’s opener against Portugal, stunning them 3-2, before scoring in the 3-1 defeat to Poland. Donovan scored again as the US beat Mexico in the round of 16, but couldn’t help stun the Germans — ultimately losing 1-0 in the quarters.