With a pair of penalties in the final against Nigeria, Argentine starlet Lionel Messi sealed the adidas Golden Shoe award as finals top scorer. He was followed by Spain's Llorente and Ukrainian sensation Aliiev. Also receiving the adidas Golden Ball as top scorer with a superior goals tally of six, the Argentine teenager marked his arrival on the international scene with a bang. Behind him for finals second and third-best players are Nigerians teammates John Obi Mikel and Taye Taiwo.
adidas Golden, Silver and Bronze Shoes
Lionel Messi (Argentina) 6 goals, 2 assists
No other player exerted as decisive an influence on his team as the Barcelona starlet. The lightning-quick 18-year-old, left to kick his heels on the bench for the first 45 minutes of the tournament, offered evidence of his prodigious talent the minute he was allowed into the action. He repaid coach Francisco Ferrara's faith with a goal in Argentina's 2-0 victory over Egypt, before orchestrating his side's 1-0 triumph against Germany in inimitable fashion with a highly unselfish assist. Unsurprisingly, Barcelona President Joan Laporta believes he has unearthed a real rough diamond. The players' unparalleled performance in the second round did nothing to hurt his reputation.
Fernando Llorente (Spain) 5 goals, 2 assists
At first glance, you might think this centre-forward's key asset was his height of 1,94m. But the Athletic Bilbao youngster is not just strong in the air; he also causes problems with the ball at his feet, notably in and around the penalty area. Well used to dealing with tough man-markers, Llorente holds the ball up and stretches defences to make space for colleagues. Moreover, his five goals at the finals show an ability to be in the right place at the right time, making him the reference point of the Spanish attack. "I am happy with my performances, but that's not important - what matters is to play for the team and contribute to us getting results," the 20-year-old says.
Oleksandr Aliiev (Ukraine) 5 goals, 1 assists
With five goals from the three group matches, 20-year-old Aliiev impressed mightily with his clinical finishing at Netherlands 2005. The diminutive number 8, with a sharp eye for goal, combined both scoring and midfield duties. He showed his versatility in all four of Ukraine's games, creating chances and scoring goals with aplomb. Coach Alexei Mikhailichenko may have bemoaned his side's finishing, but he can have no complaints about Aliiev.
Adidas Golden, Silver and Bronze Balls (as voted by the media)
Lionel Messi (Argentina) 423 points
His six goals aside, Messi was hands-down the most individually influential player at the finals. With bags of pace, skill to burn and a searing left-footed shot, the Barcelona youngster is poised for great things. With all the pressure weighing him down in the final match against Nigeria, the youngster managed to keep his cool and put two penalties home to give Argentina their fourth World Youth Championship crown in six tries.
John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) 130 points
With so much pressure on his young shoulders, Nigeria's midfield maestro found the centre of the pitch the best place to relieve the tension. Described as having the composure of a 30-year-old, Mikel found the time and space to orchestrate his side's best attacks. Tall, elegant and powerful, the playmaker held his nerve to eventually convert the important penalty and hand his team the cushion of a 2-0 lead against Switzerland in the all-important third match. Great things are expected of this 18-year-old.
Taye Taiwo (Nigeria) 48 points
With two crucial goals in Nigeria's rip-roaring run to the final, the Marseilles left back became an unlikely spark in attack for the Flying Eagles. Towering, powerful and with an attention to detail rarely seen at such a young age, the big number-three was one of Nigeria's most potent weapons on both sides of the pitch. With two successful penalties - including the winner - in the marathon quarter-final shootout with the hosts, it was evident that the big man's nerves were not easily jangled. With a great future ahead, the ever-smiling Taiwo was a force to be reckoned with in the Lowlands.