Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling was today announced as the latest recipient of the prestigious European Golden Boy accolade, awarded each year to the young player considered to have performed to the highest level.
The 20-year-old was still a teenager until 12 days ago yet experienced a remarkable calendar year of progress that included a Barclays Premier League title race with his club and recognition at the World Cup with his country.
Sterling's much-discussed natural ability blossomed exponentially in 2014, as his pace, movement, game intelligence, creativity and decision-making reached new heights under the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers at Anfield.
The No.31 was a crucial component of the Reds team that finished second in the Premier League in May, before testing his credentials at Champions League level this season and evolving into a versatile attacker capable of leading the front line.
That development has now been rewarded with the Golden Boy honour, an individual prize originally established by Italian newspaper Tuttosport and decided by the selections of leading publications from across the continent.
With all players aged under 21 eligible for nomination, Sterling faced serious competition to scoop the award - a 40-man shortlist was initially revealed, also featuring Liverpool teammate Lazar Markovic and future colleague Divock Origi.
He becomes the first Reds player and only the second Englishman to be named the winner, following Wayne Rooney in 2004, while fellow Anfield forward Mario Balotelli was the budding talent chosen four years ago.
Other notable previous recipients of the Golden Boy trophy include Argentina and Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, his compatriot Sergio Aguero and last year's champion, France midfielder Paul Pogba.