Borussia Dortmund’s much-hyped teenager Youssoufa Moukoko is a Bundesliga record-breaker.One day after his 16th birthday, he came off the bench for the final five minutes of Dortmund’s 5-2 demolition of Hertha Berlin.
There had never been a more eagerly-anticipated debut in the history of the Bundesliga.To fans of Borussia Dortmund, it feels as though Youssoufa Moukoko has already been around for a long time, but having just turned 16 he was finally eligible to make his Bundesliga debut on Saturday against Hertha.
The moment of history came in the 85th minute at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, when he replaced Erling Haaland, Dortmund’s four-goal hero .Moukoko, who at 16 years and one day becomes the fifth-youngest player to ever play in Europe, enjoyed a few neat touches but of course didn’t have much time to impress.
There will be plenty of time for that but, for now, Moukoko can bask in the glory of beating Nuri Sahin’s record, set in 2005, by 11 months.
Sahin’s tale is a cautionary one that not all wunderkinds reach the very top, btu after four astounding seasons in Germany’s youth leagues, it’s understandable why Moukoko generates such interest.The Cameroon-born striker has built himself a reputation as a goal machine with Dortmund.His best season to date was 2018/19 when he clocked up 46 goals and 8 assists in 25 games.Last season, it was a mere 34 goals and 9 assists in 20 games, and this season he’s scored 10 goals in three games.
It’s safe to say he’s outgrown teams with ‘under’ in their names.
‘It’s fun to train him’
Understandably, Dortmund coach Lucien Favre is chomping at the bit to see what his latest academy graduate can do in the senior team.”He is very good and has great potential,” said Favre, who has welcomed Moukoko into Dortmund’s senior training sessions since January, before COVID-19 restrictions made that more difficult for junior players.”He doesn’t know which foot he is playing with! He is very efficient with both – it’s nice to see that and it’s fun to train him.”
That’s not to say Dortmund’s current front line is lacking in the ‘fun’ department.Haaland, Gio Reyna and Jadon Sancho are arguably Europe’s most exciting young forward line, and with Moukoko likely to be used as Haaland’s understudy, Dortmund’s team is jam-packed with attacking potential.
With the hype comes expectation, and with expectation comes pressure.Dortmund are planning on keeping Moukoko wrapped in cotton wool for as long as possible in order to shield him from the potential pitfalls ahead, keeping him away from any media engagements presumably until he is 18.Sancho arrived at Dortmund aged 17 and his rise came in his second season and, at a club that knows how to handle young, raw talent, nobody is expecting Moukoko to be an overnight success, despite the insatiable appetite among fans for just that.
Dortmund coach Lucien Favre gives some last-minute instructions as Moukoko comes on for his Bundesliga debut.
For Moukoko, his journey to this point can be traced back as far as May 2009.
Just four years old, he fell in love with football while watching the Champions League semifinal between Chelsea and Barcelona on TV at his grandparents’ house in his hometown, the Cameroonian capital Yaounde.
Just five years later, he was already on the path to becoming a professional footballer in Germany, specifically St Pauli, where he joined his father at the club’s academy.Two years after that, Dortmund had already snapped him up and transferred him to their youth academy.
An early sign of the regard Moukoko was held in, BVB thrust him straight into their Under-17s side as a 12-year-old.Nike, who always have a nose for a budding superstar, also tied him to a big-money, long-term sponsorship deal .
You wouldn’t think Moukoko, who has already represented Germany at Under-20 level this season, is one of the most talked about young players in the world based on his accommodation in Dortmund.He lives in an 18 square meter cabin at the Dortmund training center but already has the financial means to look after his parents, who still both live in Hamburg.
“I read what the media write, but I don’t put pressure on myself,” Moukoko told Dortmund’s website in a rare interview during which the club hinted he could feature in Berlin.
Football is a sport so professional that teenage talents can be spotted and primed to be ready to make their bows as soon as they are 16.Debuts for players of Moukoko’s age and experience are likely to become more common in the future.
But the question for Moukoko is whether he will be remembered in years to come for more than just his age.
Football prodigies; some become stars, some fade away Youssoufa Moukoko Youssoufa Moukoko had a dream debut in the under-19 Bundesliga, scoring six goals in Borussia Dortmund’s 9-2 drubbing of Wuppertaler SV.He first came to national attention earlier this year when it was reported that Nike had paid €10 million ($11.2 million) to get his name on a sponsorship deal.He will be eligible to play in the Bundesliga on November 20, 2020, when he turns 16.
Football prodigies; some become stars, some fade away Edson Arantes do Nascimento Pele began playing for Santos at the age of 15 and Brazil a year later.He represented his country at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, scoring a hat-trick against France in the semifinal, becoming the youngest player to score in a World Cup in the process.He went on to make 92 appearances for Brazil, scoring 77 goals.
He spent the last two seasons of his career with the New York Cosmos.
Football prodigies; some become stars, some fade away Diego Maradona Diego Armando Maradona made his professional debut for Argentinos Juniors at the age of 15 and went on to have a long and storied career with Barcelona, Napoli and Sevilla among others.He also led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title and is remembered for scoring against England with a blatant handball – and also scoring on a solo run that is considered one of the greatest goals in history.
Football prodigies; some become stars, some fade away Cristiano Ronaldo Now 34, the Juventus forward made his debut with Sporting Lisbon at just 17 – scoring two goals.At 18 he joined Manchester United, where he spent several seasons before climbing to even greater heights with Real Madrid – scoring 311 goals in just 292 appearances for Los Blancos.
He’s made 158 appearances for Portugal, and led them to the Euro 2016 title in France.
Football prodigies; some become stars, some fade away Kylian Mbappe Kylian Mbappe debuted for Ligue 1 club Monaco in 2015 at the age of 16 and in 2017 he became the world’s second-most expensive transfer, moving to Paris Saint-Germain for a reported €180 million.Mbappe has since won several team and individual awards.On July 15, 2018 he became only the second teenager after Pele to score in a World Cup final as France beat Croatia 4-2 to lift the trophy.
Football prodigies; some become stars, some fade away Norman Whiteside Beyond Northern Ireland and Manchester, Norman Whiteside is perhaps best remembered for breaking Pele’s record for being the youngest to play in a World Cup – at 17 years and 41 days – in Spain in 1982.A year later, Whiteside became the youngest to score in an FA Cup final – as United beat Brighton 4-0 in a replay.
However, a series of injuries forced him to retire as a player at just 26.
Football prodigies; some become stars, some fade away Freddy Adu Prodigies don’t always live up to their billing.Freddy Adu was touted as the next Pele when he made his MLS debut at the age of 14 in 2004.Adu was traded from DC United to Salt Lake in 2006 before quickly moving to Benfica.But what followed was a journeyman career through more than a dozen clubs.
Most recently he was dropped from the roster of the Las Vegas Lights of the USL Championship.
Football prodigies; some become stars, some fade away Alen Halilovic Alen Halilovic made his pro debut for Dinamo Zagreb at the age of 16 and made his first appearance for Croatia a few months later, becoming that country’s youngest player.Two years later he moved to Catalan powerhouse Barcelona and the sky seemed to be the limit.However, he would play just one match for Barca before being loaned out.He is currently on loan at Standard Liege from AC MIlan.
Football prodigies; some become stars, some fade away Alexandre Pato Alexandre Pato had an auspicious start to his career, deputing for Brazilian club Internacional at 16 – helping the club to win the 2006 FIFA Club World Cup.
A year later he was at AC Milan, where the forward put up good numbers at first.Injuries contributed to a downward slide and he started bouncing around – winding up with Chinese side Tianjin Tianhai.He’s now back in Brazil with Sao Paolo.
Football prodigies; some become stars, some fade away John Bostock John Bostock has the distinction of being the youngest player to debut for both Crystal Palace (15 in 2007) and Tottenham Hotspur (16 in 2008).However, his career quickly stalled and he embarked on a tour that took him all the way to MLS club Toronto FC, where he played just seven matches in 2013.The midfielder is now at Championship side Nottingham Forest, where he is on loan from Toulouse.
Football prodigies; some become stars, some fade away Alphonso Davies The Canadian, who was born to Liberian parents in a refugee camp in Ghana, signed his first professional contract with the Whitecaps FC2 of the USL at the age of 15 – later moving up to the Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS.In the 2018 summer transfer window, Bayern Munich swooped in to bring the promising youngster to the Bundesliga.Still just 18, Davies has 14 caps and three goals for Canada.
Author: Chuck Penfold.