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Who is Youssoufa Moukoko, and what's next for him?

Dortmund's newest rising star: What's next for teenager Youssoufa Moukoko?

March 15, 2021 By Michelle Bonsu
The teenager is the latest in a long line of young players to make their mark at Signal Iduna Park. What's next to come for the rising star?

On Monday, March 15th, Germany's under-21 coach Stefan Kuntz released his 23-man squad for the upcoming under-21 EURO tournament. One name in particular has generated quite a lot of buzz: Youssoufa Moukoko. But anyone who's been following German football for the past few years already will be well aware of his name. In 2014, Moukoko, who was just shy of his tenth birthday was snapped up by the under-13 side of 2.Bundesliga side FC St. Pauli, and promptly went on to score 23 goals (in just 13 matches).

Born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Moukoko moved to Germany with his father, who had acquired German citizenship after living in the country since the 1990's. In the summer of 2014, just before turning 10 that November, his talents were quickly spotted by FC St. Pauli, but not surprisingly, he was on the move two years later as Borussia Dortmund swooped in to add him to their youth squad in July 2016.

At that time, Moukoko was just 13 years old, but had no problems holding his own for Dortmund's under-17 side. And just as he had done at FC St. Pauli, he quickly became one of the team's top goal-scorers, which saw him promptly promoted to the under 19 side a year later.

In his first match, he scored six - yes, that's six - goals as Dortmund cruised to a 9-2 win over Wuppertaler SV. A month later, he made his first appearance in the UEFA Youth League, and on October 23, he scored his first goal as Dortmund took on Inter. At just 14, he became, and still remains, the youngest ever player to score in that competition.

Not surprisingly, Moukoko's performances garnered attention. And not all of it, unfortunately, was positive. Some observers, for whatever reason or motivations, began to float ideas that the youngster wasn't the age he claimed to be, forcing his father and Dortmund to vehemently defend the rising star. In 2017, he featured at the international level for the first time, taking to the pitch for Germany's under 16 side and scored twice in his second game as they beat Austria 2-1.

Despite Dortmund standing by their player, there still remain those who are convinced that he can't possibly have been born in November 2004. It's unfortunate, really, but there's not much one can do to convince those who have already made their minds up. And the nasty whispers fortunately haven't become a roar as most people do believe he's set to turn 17 this November.

Yet, in order to protect him from unnecessary media speculation, the DFB and Dortmund both agreed not to field him for any of the national teams. As such, Moukoko, after scoring three times in four appearances for the under-17's, didn't make another appearance in 2020, when he made two appearances for the under-20 side.

In January 2020, Moukoko made his biggest leap yet: to the senior team. Die Schwarzgelben, who were then under the guidance of Lucien Favre, decided to let him train with the first team alongside his players -  some of whom were actually double Moukoko's age.

While he had to wait until November to make his first appearance, it was well worth the wait, and on November 21st, one day after celebrating his 16th birthday, he came on for a cameo appearance as Dortmund beat Hertha Berlin 5-2. This made him the youngest ever debutant in league history, and in December, his appearance against Russian outfit Zenit in the Champions League now makes him the youngest ever player to feature in Europe's premier club competition.

Moukoko didn't have to wait long for his debut Bundesliga goal. Three days after making his first ever start against Werder Bremen on December 15, he netted against Union Berlin. It turned out to be a mere consolation as Dortmund ended up losing 2-1, but it was still a win as he again wrote his name in the history books.

The prior record had been set by Florian Wirtz, who was 17 years and 34 days old when he scored for Leverkusen in a 4-2 loss to Bayern Munich on June 6, 2020. It took about 18 months for Wirtz's record to fall, and no one was shocked that it was Moukoko to achieve this.

Dortmund underwent a managerial change as Favre was given his marching orders following a humiliating 5-1 loss to newly promoted Stuttgart, with Edin Terzic appointed as the interim boss. Moukoko, meanwhile, has still been given a fair share of minutes, but with one eye on his young age to avoid injury or burnout. To date, he's scored three Bundesliga goals in 13 appearances, the most recent in this past Saturday's 2-0 win over Hertha Berlin.

Only fellow youngsters Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho have scored more league goals than him, with the Norwegian racking up 19 (with four assists) while the English international has grabbed six (while assisting nine) . Fellow youngster Gio Reyna, meanwhile, has been directly involved in seven goals (three goals, four assists).

In fact, this quartet, who are all under the age of 21, have scored 28 times between them. That's over 50 per cent of Dortmund's 52 goals this season. No other team in not just Germany, but across Europe's "Big 5" leagues can boast of their youth having such an impact.

So, where does this leave Moukoko, who, at 16, is by far the youngest of this youthful and ambitious group? Next up will be the upcoming u-21 EURO championship, and if he's selected as part of the starting XI for their opener against Hungary on March 24th, he'll become the youngest ever player to feature in that tournament.

Being the youngest-ever player has been a theme for Moukoko ever since he burst onto the scene as a 9-year-old back in 2014, and it looks like it's going to be an ongoing trend as he continues to make major inroads in his nascent footballing career. 

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