Every boy, who is a ball boy, has a dream: become a pro, just like the guys in front of their eyes, with the world at their feet! Some of those boys were fortunate and talented enough to live that dream! So here they are, a star in their own right, walking on the same road paved by their heroes!
Born is Stockport, Greater Manchester, Foden grew up supporting Manchester City. The elusive forward scored twice in the final as England beat Spain 5-2 in the final of the U17 FIFA World Cup in 2017. During the same year he made his debut for The Citizens and was named BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year. Pep Guardiola heaped high praise on the teenager, going on record to say: “Phil is the most, most, most talented player I have ever seen in my career as a manager.”
Foden is only 20 and already racked up over 100 appearance for City, a milestone since his days as a ball-boy back in 2012 when Man City won their first Premier League title.
If you’ve watched Amazon’s All or Nothing documentary on Manchester City, then you might recall Guardiola’s great speech to inspire his players: “Can you imagine a ball-boy? In his country, a small country. Going to the academy when 13. And after playing in the first-team, his own team, he stayed and after becoming manager at 37, in four years, he destroyed football! It’s me guys! It’s me!”
Guardiola’s legacy in Barça is monumental, from ball-boy, to playing under Johan Cruyff in Barcelona’s Dream Team, and later, the club’s most successful manager, continuing the philosophy put in place by the legendary Dutchman.
Italy’s 2006 FIFA World Cup winning hero started off as a ball-boy with his hometown club S.S.C. Napoli. Born in 1973 he played for local side Bagnoli before being scouted by the Gli Azzurri in 1988. Those were unprecedented times in Naples, something the city has not experienced before or since. Imagine having the opportunity to watch Diego Maradona, at his pomp, leading Napoli to unfathomable of glory! Later on, Cannavaro got to mix it up with his idols Ciro Ferrara and Maradona himself.
Don Fabio went on to have an illustrious career playing for some of the biggest clubs in the world: Internazionale, Juventus, and Real Madrid, but nothing quite compared to the excitement of those early days!
Brahim Díaz began his career with his boyhood club Málaga, where he also served as a ball-boy. The Spaniard moved to England in 2016 to sign for Manchester City before making his professional debut. In 2019, he would return to Spain, this time with Real Madrid in a deal worth around €17 million. He was part of the Spain side which finished runner-up in the 2016 UEFA European Under-17 Championship.
Raúl has forever been stitched into the fabric of Spain’s most decorated club, Real Madrid, but the forward began his career with cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid, where he spent part of his youth career and even served as a ball-boy. Raúl would go on to make 741 appearances for the Los Blancos, the most by any player, and is the club’s second all-time top scorer with 323 goals.
Philipp Lahm is perhaps the greatest defender of his era. The diminutive right-back joined Bayern Munich’s academy in 1995 as an 11-year old. Lahm sights how watching Bayern games from the sidelines as a ball-boy went on to impact his early career.
He would later go on to captain both Bayern and Germany during extremely successful periods, and lifted the German Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, UEFA Champions League, and the 2014 FIFA World Cup before retiring with 517 appearances for FC Hollywood and 113 international caps for Die Mannschaft.
Chelsea’s young starlet is one of the most sought after wingers in world football. The 20-year old mercurial talent joined The Blues as a seven-year old, and served as a ball-boy before making a name for himself during his outings with Chelsea’s youth team. He was one of the standout performers as the team won back-to-back FA Youth Cups and the U18 Premier League title.
Hudson-Odoi made his first-team debut on January 28, 2018, in the FA Cup against Newcastle United. The former ball-boy emulated his hero Samuel Eto’o when he scored in Stamford Bridge in a 4-0 win over European opposition PAOK in November 2019.