Borussia Dortmund striker Youssoufa Moukoko broke a Champions League record on Tuesday, becoming the youngest player ever to feature in the competition.
Moukoko has been steadily hyped up for the last three years now. His record at youth team level is frankly absurd, and he was already turning out for Dortmund’s U17 aged just 13.
That season, in 2017-18, saw him return an astounding 37 goals in 25 matches, before going one better in ‘18-19, netting 46 times in the same amount of games.
After a hit rate of 31 goals in 18 appearances last season for Dortmund’s U19 side, the striker, now 16, has been thrust into the first team set up.
To date, he’s made three senior appearances in the Bundesliga, and on Tuesday evening, made his debut in the Champions League, coming off the bench in a win against Zenit Saint Petersburg to become the youngest player ever to feature in the competition.
It seems obvious that Moukoko has a huge career ahead of him, but this is football, and nothing is guaranteed.
That much is obvious when assessing a list of the other nine youngest debutants in Champions League history; while some have gone on to have illustrious careers, others have stagnated or fallen by the wayside.
Here’s where the top 10 youngest Champions League players are now:
10) Aleksandr Pavlenko (16 years 280 days)
Pavlenko came through the youth academy at Dynamo Moscow before signing a professional contract with city rivals Spartak aged 16. His Champions League bow came in 2001, when he entered proceedings with seven minutes to spare in a 2-1 loss to Feyenoord.
Now 35, Pavlenko has spent his career bouncing around several Russian clubs in both the first and second tier. He now plys his trade for FC Rodina Moscow in the third division, having signed for the club earlier this year.
9) Bryan Cristante (16 years 272 days)
Cristante rose through the ranks of A.C. Milan’s Primavera academy and was a late substitute in Milan’s 2011-12 UCL group stage match away to Czech side Viktoria Plzeň, a game they drew 2-2.
The Italian midfielder signed for Benfica back in 2014 before being loaned out in consecutive seasons to three separate Serie A clubs. Cristante now represents A.S. Roma and has nine Italy caps to his name.
8) Moise Kean (16 years 264 days)
Kean burst onto the scene in 2016 when playing for Italian champions Juventus. Similar to Moukoko, Kean had been something of a sensation at youth level for both club and country, and made his Champions League debut against Sevilla in a 3-1 win.
The forward later moved to the Premier League in 2019, signing for Everton. Struggling to adapt to the difference in both life and playing style, Kean has since joined PSG on loan, where he’s got off to a flying start and rekindled his wunderkid status.
7) Kenneth Zohore (16 years 259 days)
Zahore shot to fame in Denmark’s capital with F.C. Copenhagen in 2010, making his European debut as a substitute in the club’s match at the Camp Nou against Barcelona. He’d make five UCL appearances in the following campaign and was tipped for big things.
The striker secured a big move to Fiorentina two seasons later but failed to make the grade. He’s since become something of a Championship mainstay in England, having played for Cardiff and West Brom, and now Millwall on loan.
6) Charalampos Mavrias (16 years 242 days)
Mavrias is a Greek international who came through Panathinaikos’ youth set up and featured in their Champions League group stage match against Rubin Kazan in 2010.
The defender-cum-midfielder then enjoyed a brief spell with Sunderland before having something of a nomadic career. He now represents Cypriot side A.C. Omonia and has played a starring role in their current Europa League campaign.
5) Youri Tielemans (16 years 148 days)
Tielemans will be a familiar name to long-time Football Manager addicts and Premier League fans alike. The Belgian came through at Anderlecht’s prestigious academy and appeared in a 2013-14 UCL match against Olympiacos.
The midfielder earnt a big move to nouveau riche French club A.S. Monaco in 2017 and now plays for Leicester City under Brendan Rodgers. Aged 23, Tielemans has clocked up a hell of a lot of professional minutes for someone who’s still relatively young.
4) Alen Halilović (16 years 128 days)
Halilović came through the ranks at local side Dinamo Zagreb and was dubbed the ‘Croatian Messi’. He came on for the last minute of his side’s 2-0 loss to PSG in 2013, but was clearly destined for big things.
A dream move to Barcelona followed. He spent the first season with the B team squad before being farmed out on loan. Permanent moves to HSV and A.C. Milan followed but failed to ignite his flickering career, and now the midfielder finds himself in the Championship with Birmingham City.
3) Rayan Cherki (16 years 102 days)
Cherki’s career took off last season when he broke into Olympique Lyonnais’ first team. The attacking midfielder featured in the last 15 minutes of Lyon’s game versus Zenit Saint Petersburg and would go on to appear in a second group stage game that year, too.
One year on, Cherki, still at Lyon, is widely tipped to have a fine career. He’s played three times in Ligue 1 so far but unfortunately will not be adding to his budding European ventures this term, with his club failing to re-qualify last season.
2) Céléstine Babayaro (16 years 87 days)
Babayaro is the oldest player on this list, having made his Champions League debut for Anderlecht way back in 1994 against Romanian side Steaua Bucharest. The defender hails from Nigeria but moved to Belgium after catching the eye at local side Plateau United.
Babayaro retired back in 2008, after making over 100 appearances for Chelsea and enjoying a three-year stint at Newcastle. He also won 27 Nigeria caps and was last seen signing for LA Galaxy, but was released after falling out with the club’s hierarchy and promptly hung up his boots.
1) Youssoufa Moukoko (16 years 18 days)
As mentioned at the top of this article, Moukoko has been something of an internet sensation for the past few years, given his prolific goalscoring record at youth level. He made his European debut on Tuesday just days after his 16th birthday, making him the youngest player in the competition’s history.
We’ll have to wait and see where Moukoko’s career lands on the scale of forgotten wunderkid to world class player, but with stars like Erling Haaland calling him ‘the world’s most exciting talent’, it’s clear to see many expect it to be the latter.News Now - Sport News