Malaga attacking midfielder Isco has won the prestigious Golden Boy prize, which is awarded to Europe’s best under-21 player by Tuttosport.
The 20-year-old was selected by a panel of 30 journalists working for the most influential publications from 20 nations around the continent.
The Spanish midfielder became the 10th player to receive the award after seeing off the 39 other nominees who were initially selected.
“I’m overjoyed. It is a wonderful thing. I see the past winners and it almost makes me shiver, names of the highest prestige, like (Lionel) Messi,” Isco told Tuttosport.
“This Golden Boy will be an incentive for me to become a real star of international football, like those who have gone before me.”
Isco accumulated 137 votes to win the prize, beating off competition from AC Milan’s Stephan El Shaarawy – who came in second with 125 votes – and Atletico Madrid shot-stopper Thibaut Courtois, on loan from Chelsea, who came third with 116 votes.
“When I read that I was one of three candidates for the title I dribbled a little, I thought it was a joke,” Isco said.
“When I knew that El Shaarawy and Courtois were the other candidates, I didn’t expect to win.”
Previous winners of the accolade include the likes of Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Aguero and Wayne Rooney, while the 2011 winner was Borussia Dortmund’s Mario Goetze, who picked up the award at 19 years of age.
Isco has been in excellent form for his club so far this season, scoring six times and assisting on another eight occasions in his 25 appearances.
His performances in the Champions League in particular have drawn praise, particularly from the media in his native Spain.