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Danny Stewart: Will being the Golden Boy be the silver lining for Billy?

© Facundo Arrizabalaga/AP/ShutterstockBilly Gilmour waves to the fans after being named man of the match against England
Billy Gilmour waves to the fans after being named man of the match against England

Billy Gilmour’s Euros might have ended even more prematurely than it did for Steve Clarke’s team.

But Scotland’s new national treasure retains an interest in the tournament nevertheless.

The Chelsea midfielder is in the running for a prestigious prize for the most-promising young talent in European football aged under 21.

Created in 2003 by the Italian sports newspaper, Tuttosport, the Golden Boy award has been won previously by the likes of Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland (last year) and, going back a bit, Lionel Messi.

Football fans from all over the world select a top 100 from Europe’s top-tier divisions, before a panel of journalists from eight of the major nations whittle down the numbers until they can decide on the best of the best.

While the process is a slow one – the winner will not be announced until later this year – common sense tells us performances in the Euros will be key.

Gilmour has only Aaron Hickey of Bologna for Scottish company on the shortlist, and has already made a claim on that front through his hugely-impressive display against England.

A positive Covid test denied him his chance to repeat the trick against Croatia and, in his absence, the country crashed to defeat, with the victors deservedly marching on.

To get to the last eight, though, Modric and Co will have to take care of the favourite to be named this year’s Golden Boy – the Spanish phenomenon Pedri – when the countries meet tomorrow.

Still just 18, the midfielder is already the main playmaker for his club, Barcelona, with only Lionel Messi having been quicker to reach 50 appearances for the Catalans.

It spoke volumes that Pedri was the name the award’s organisers highlighted when announcing this year’s shortlist.

Early in the tournament, Gary Lineker asked Cesc Fabregas, Golden Boy of 2006, of Pedri: “He is going to be a superstar, isn’t he?”

“We think so, yes,” was the candid reply.

Now that Scotland are out, Tartan Army attention will inevitably focus on how England get on.

With memories of the widespread Wembley glee last Tuesday night at the news of Croatia’s success at Hampden still raw, Tuesday’s clash with Germany – already one of the tastiest ties of the last-16 – will have many Scots instinctively reaching for Bratwursts and giant beer steins to accompany their evening’s viewing.

And here, too, the various attacking possibilities offered by other Golden Boy front runners, provide an intriguing sub plot.

Having rewarded his manager with a storming contribution in the win over the Czech Republic, 19-year-old Bukayo Saka will surely stay in to face the Germans. A team-mate of Kieran Tierney at Arsenal, the flying full-back come winger was a stand-out in the English Premier League last season and, just like Tierney with Scotland, he has carried on where he left off.

Similarly, Bayern Munich’s much-hyped midfielder, Jamal Musiala, has a strong claim to make the opposition’s line-up.

The teenager, who represented England at youth level before switching to Germany, became the youngest player to make an appearance for the country when he came off the bench last Wednesday against Hungary.

Given less than 10 minutes to make a difference, he justified the confidence with his dart down the right helping set up the all-important equaliser for Leon Goretzka.

There is the chance, too, of Musiala doing something he has become familiar with in Bundesliga action.

Namely going head-to-head against Jude Bellingham of Borussia Dortmund, another who already has built up a huge reputation at a very young age.

The pair were team-mates with England, and are friends, despite the fierce rivalry of their respective clubs.

Gareth Southgate gave Bellingham a run-out in the last-quarter of the game against the Czechs.

But through all the hype, the Three Lions’ boss has generally resisted the clamour to throw in a teen who is routinely dominating games at a very high level.

There are plenty of others to look out for too with Belgium, who play Portugal today, known to rate Rennes 19-year-old winger, Jeremy Doku, extremely highly.

With such competition around, Billy Gilmour will have his work cut out to come out on at the very top of the pile.

As with Scotland’s presence in the Euros themselves this year, though, sometimes it is better to have tried and failed, than not have been there at all.