Fifteen-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko trained with Dortmund’s senior squad on Monday.
Wearing the same number (18) that the club’s academy coordinator Lars Ricken wore when he help Borussia Dortmund win the Champions League in 1997, Moukoko went toe-to-toe with the likes of Erling Haaland and Manuel Akanji.
“He should be introduced to senior football,” Dortmund’s sporting director Michael Zorc said of the forward who is already a household name having scored 157 goals in 97 games for Dortmund’s under-17 and U19 teams.
Youssoufa Moukoko has dazzled youth football with his remarkable goalscoring record
“He is an outstanding talent, but is very young. One should therefore not place too much expectations on his shoulders,” Zorc added.
First-team captain Marco Reus told German magazine Sport Bild something similar. “He’s a great kid, but I think we would all do him a big favor if we didn’t talk about him so much.”
With that in mind, Moukoko will continue playing with the U19 squad until his 16th birthday in late November. After that, thanks to a rule change regarding age requirements, Moukoko will be eligible to play for the first team.
Remarkable scoring record
Moukoko joined BVB’s youth academy from Hamburg-based club St. Pauli in 2016 and made his debut for Dortmund’s U17 side when he was 12.
Between 2017 and 2019, Moukoko bagged 90 goals and 16 assists in just 56 games. His scoring continued at the U19 level last season, where he racked up 38 goals and 10 assists in 28 games. Last August on debut for the U19s, aged just 14, Moukoko scored six.
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 won’t be able to play in the Bundesliga until at least November 2020 when he turns 16.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
His performances prompted Dortmund to request the DFL ― which operates Germany’s top two divisions ― to reduce the minimum age for first-team players. The DFL obliged, lowering the age from 16 and a half to 16.
The rule change means that Moukoko, who turns sixteen on November 20, could make his Bundesliga debut before the end of the year.
His rampant goalscoring also attracted sponsors to his doorstep, and in May 2019, Moukoko signed a shoe deal with Nike worth €10 million ($11.7 million).
Ready for the show?
Last year Dortmund, who have developed several top stars over the past decade, hired Otto Addo as a top talent coach. Addo, who played for BVB from 1999 to 2005, is tasked with position-specific training, individual analysis and conducting off-the-field checkups on bright prospects in the club’s youth system such as Moukoko.
Youssoufa Moukoko has his eye on first-team appearances this season
“He has the potential to break into the first team,” Addo said of Moukoko at a press conference. “But nobody knows how he will train in a professional environment. No one knows whether he can establish himself among adult players.
“He certainly has all the qualities. He is very disciplined and motivated and is a professional. I have rarely seen a player that also works on the deficiencies he still has. He is giving it his all and I hope it’s enough.”
It won’t be long before both Moukoko and Borussia Dortmund find out.