Lukaku, Tielemans & Elliot: What happened to Europe's 16 youngest debutants since 2000?

Harvey Elliot debuted for Fulham as a 16-year-old

Borussia Dortmund starlet Youssoufa Moukoko is a hot topic among football fans right now.

The Cameroon-born striker turned 16 on Friday and is now in line for his professional debut in the Bundesliga.

Moukoko's form with Dortmund's youth teams has attracted attention from across the globe in recent years.

With the German club's U17 side, the Germany U20 international scored 90 goals and notched 16 assists in his 56 appearances.

Upon promotion to the U19 team, Moukoko continued his ridiculous form by scoring 47 goals and contributing with 10 assists in just 25 games.

Moukoko with Dortmund

According to his profile on Transfermarkt, the teenage sensation is averaging 1.9 goal contributions per game at youth level - absolutely ridiculous.

The sky is the limit for Moukoko, but smashing it at youth level and making your professional debut as a 16-year-old aren't things that automatically guarantee success.

Thanks to Transfermarkt once again, we've provided the 16 youngest debutants in European football since the year 2000 and have then looked at their career paths so far.

It's certainly a mixed bag...

16. Aaron Lennon, Leeds United, 2003/04 (16 years, 4 months, 7 days)

Lennon burst onto the Premier League scene as a teenager, but he failed to fulfil all of his enormous potential. The English winger was good in bursts at Tottenham, however, he was never close to the world-class bracket. He's now out in Turkey with Kayserispor.

15. M'Baye Niang, Caen, 2010/11 (16 years, 4 months, 5 days)

The Senegalese striker just hasn't lived up to expectation. Niang failed to make the grade at AC Milan and was pretty woeful during his loan spell with Watford in 2016/17. He's now with Rennes, where he's finally starting to find the back of the net again.

14. Enes Unal, Bursaspor, 2013/14 (16 years, 3 months, 15 days)

Unal completed a move to Manchester City in 2015 after breaking through at Bursaspor. He failed to play a game for the English club's senior side and is now with Getafe after leaving Villarreal this summer.

Unal with Man City

13. Romelu Lukaku, Anderlecht, 2009/10 (16 years, 3 months, 9 days)

He's been alright, hasn't he? Lukaku lit up the Premier League with West Brom, Everton and - to a degree - Manchester United. Belgium's record goal getter is now scoring for fun out in Italy with Inter Milan.

12. Youri Tielemans, Anderlecht, 2013/14 (16 years, 2 months, 21 days)

Another success story. Tielemans is a regular in the Belgian national team and has established himself as one of the Premier League's best midfielders at Leicester. He's still only 23-years-old as well.

11. Sepp van den Berg, Zwolle, 2017/18 (16 years, 2 months, 19 days)

Liverpool signed the teenage defender from Zwolle in the summer of 2019 and he's already made four appearances for the club's senior side. Will we see more of the 18-year-old this season now that the Reds are in the midst of an injury crisis in defence?

10. Rayan Cherki, Lyon, 2019/20 (16 years, 2 months, 2 days)

The French forward broke into Lyon's first team last season and looks a real talent. In his 19 games so far, Cherki has scored three goals and contributed with two assists. A potential superstar in the making.

Cherki with Lyon

9. Stephan El Shaarawy, Genoa, 2008/09 (16 years, 1 month, 24 days)

For a brief period at AC Milan, it looked as if El Shaarawy was going to be the next great Italian forward. Sadly, his career has been on the decline for some time now and in the summer of 2019, the 28-year-old opted to join Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua.

8. Willem Geubbels, Lyon, 2017/18 (16 years, 1 month, 7 days)

Soon after his debut for Lyon's senior team, Geubbels was snapped up by AS Monaco. He's played just 10 times for the principality side since, but there's still time for the 19-year-old winger to get his career back on track.

7. Neal Maupay, Nice, 2012/13 (16 years, 1 month, 1 day)

Maupay's five years in French football after making his professional debut were nothing to write home about. However, his career took off when he joined Brentford in 2017. The now 24-year-old striker scored goals for fun in the Championship and is now thriving in the English top-tier with Brighton.

6. Harvey Elliot, Fulham, 2018/19 (16 years, 1 month)

Elliot became the youngest player in Premier League history back in May 2019 and then secured a move to Liverpool a few months after - not bad that. The talented winger is now on loan at Blackburn Rovers, where he's scored one goal and notched three assists in six Championship games.

Elliot with Fulham

5. Albert Rafetraniaina, Nice, 2012/13 (16 years, 27 days)

The man from Madagascar debuted for Nice just after his 16th birthday and remained with the club until 2019. He then joined Serie C team Bisceglie for the 2019/20 season but sadly, the 24-year-old defender is now a free agent.

4. Valeri Bojinov, Lecce, 2001/02 (15 years, 11 months, 12 days)

Since his debut as a 15-year-old, the Bulgarian has lived quite the journeyman career. Bojinov has played for 16 different teams, including Juventus, Manchester City and Sporting Lisbon. He's now with Levski Sofia in his homeland, his third spell at the club.

3. Eddie Salcedo, Genoa, 2017/18 (15 years, 10 months, 19 days)

The Italy U19 star was signed by Inter Milan on a permanent basis in the summer of 2019. Salcedo is currently with Hellas Verona on loan and the 19-year-old is certainly a player to look out for in the future.

2. Pietro Pellegri, Genoa, 2016/17 (15 years, 9 months, 5 days)

In January 2018, Pellegri became the second-most expensive 16-year-old of all time, AS Monaco paying around €25m for his services. His move to France hasn't gone to plan as of yet, with the Italian striker making just 11 appearances and scoring only one goal. However, the 19-year-old has time on his side.

Pellegri with Monaco

1. Luka Romero, RCD Mallorca, 2019/20 (15 years, 7 months, 6 days)

Last season Romero became the youngest player to debut in European football this millennium. At the time of writing, the Argentine U17 international has made five appearances for Mallorca.

Will Romero and Moukoko join the likes of Lukaku and Tielemans in being an unmitigated success in the professional game? Only time will tell...

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