With the Ballon d’Or getting the brunt of the attention, largely down to its controversial final shortlist, the Kopa Trophy has been severely overlooked this year. A relatively new accolade, its inception in 2018 was to award the best under 21 player in world football, and is selected by former Ballon d’Or winners.
The trophy is available to everyone that fits the age category, unlike the Golden Boy award which is specifically based in Europe. The coronavirus pandemic meant that like the Ballon d’Or, the 2020 edition of the Kopa Trophy was cancelled with no recipient, but France Football were back in full swing this time around. With that in mind, we thought we’d run through all the previous winners of the Kopa Trophy, in ascending order.
2018 – Kylian Mbappé
It was pretty obvious where the first ever Kopa Trophy was heading after the year Kylian Mbappé had. It had only been a year since he really burst on the scene with Monaco, but after the pressure of a record-breaking move to Paris Saint Germain had worn off, he quickly developed into one of the deadliest finishers in the world.
While those who regularly use online betting at Betfair would know how strong that France side were that captured the 2018 World Cup, few would have thought Mbappé would garner so much responsibility, in defiance of his young age. The versatile forward played on the wing and up front as he picked up the Ligue 1 title and a domestic treble to add to his already sizeable trophy cabinet. We have no doubt a Ballon d’Or beckons in future for the talented Frenchman.
2019 – Matthijs De Ligt
The only defender to win the Kopa Trophy thus far, Matthijs de Ligt picked up the 2019 Kopa Trophy despite suffering a tricky end to the year. He started the campaign in fine fettle with Ajax, narrowly missing out on a Champions League final but picking up the Eredivisie. What followed was a Nations League final with Holland, where they were again beaten by Portugal, but De Ligt’s performance alongside Virgil Van Dijk, who arguably should have won the 2019 Ballon d’Or, earnt him praise from Portugal’s star man Cristiano Ronaldo, who was instrumental in the Dutch defender’s move to Juventus later that summer.
Sites had given free tips on Juventus to win Serie A that season, but De Ligt had a tough start to life in Italy, in and out of the side and struggling with injuries. The Old Lady secured the title but look a shell of their former selves. However, the Dutchman is finally starting to develop into the player we all thought he could be.
2021 – Pedri
The newest recipient of the Kopa Trophy, Pedri added to his Golden Boy award by picking up an individual double — and based on the sheer amount of matches he played, it was fully deserved. The Spaniard played 75 games across Spain’s domestic competitions, the Champions League, and even the Olympics, winning a Copa Del Ray with Barcelona and earning a consistent place in the Spain squad. The 19-year-old beat Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham to the award by a whopping 50 points, and despite the Englishman performing valiantly at both the Euros and in the Bundesliga, he simply didn’t do enough in terms of end products and individual moments to match Pedri throughout the year.