I have been asking myself for some time, since the England U20s won the World Cup in June to be precise, if any of this success in youth football will eventually turn the fortunes of the frankly uninspiring senior team. Following the U17s World Cup win, I’m contemplating the reality further. And so I thought I’d look back through at previous winners of the competitions and see how many players found similar success at the senior level.
Now, at the time of writing, I haven’t yet done any research. This is nothing more than a spontaneous (and almost certainly abysmal) attempt at breaking the fourth wall – a journey for everyone to make as I walk you through my discoveries. I should say that I am expecting to find some depressing results, anticipating ex-World Cup winners going on to play for Kidderminster and Coventry rather than Real and Barca, but I hope to be mistaken. And so, without further rambling, our journey begins.
I head to trusty Wikipedia, and find ‘Golden Boot Winners’ from as far back as 1977. You have to go back to 2007 before you find any household names, (a certain Sergio Aguero), but the 2011 winner caught my attention. I’d never heard of ‘Henrique’ until now, but seeing a Brazilian Golden Boot winner that I’d never heard of was in itself a surprise. So what became of this prodigy? He almost signed for QPR in 2012 – surprising considering back then Loftus Road was effectively a hospice for the careers of Premier League footballers.
“Mummy, where are they taking Djibril Cisse?”
“Don’t worry, he’ll be happier there. He’s the same old Djibril we know and love, he’s just not able to bang them in the top bins like he used to”.
Moving swiftly on from this morbid turn of events, I step away from the Golden Boot statistics and find previous winners of the tournament. Two sides catch my eye: France – winners in 2013, and Argentina – winners in 2007. Currently, France posses an astounding wealth of talent, and I hoped the 2013 squad would shed some light on just how they’ve managed it. Three names jump out at me: Zouma, Umtiti and Pogba. I start to think I’m seeing a pattern – perhaps I was too dismissive of the potential of the U20 World Cup. Then I see it. A name overlooked at first, but once noticed it renders the Pogbas and Umtitis obsolete.
I start to wonder… ‘Who will be our Yaya Sanogo?’ Calvert-Lewin? Lookman? Surely not Dominic Solanke? To be honest, I don’t really mind as long as it’s not the impressive U17 striker Rhian Brewster; call me selfish but personally I’d like to see him progress so that when he signs his first big-money contract I can use the headline ‘Brewster’s Millions’.