Sweet 16: Why all eyes will be on Youssoufa Moukoko this weekend

Logo: OneFootball


Lewis Ambrose

Article image: Sweet 16: Why all eyes will be on Youssoufa Moukoko this weekend

Youssoufa Moukoko could make Bundesliga history with Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.

The teenage striker turned 16 on Friday and will be eligible to play when Dortmund visit the Olympiastadion and Hertha BSC the following evening.


Hertha BSC
Borussia Dortmund

If he does get on the pitch, he will become the youngest player in Bundesliga history, beating Nuri Sahin’s existing record by exactly 11 months.

Bundesliga rules wouldn’t have allowed Moukoko to have made his debut until next season as recently as a year ago but a change, encouraged by Dortmund, means the striker is already on the verge of his professional bow. And it’s been coming.

“When the new rules came in, it was quickly obvious to me that my record would be broken soon,” Sahin, who also recently lost his record as Dortmund’s youngest ever goalscorer to Jude Bellingham, said this week.

“Youssoufa has to take the next step now, the U-19s is just too easy for him.”

Since joining Dortmund from St Pauli in 2016, Moukoko has consistently played three years above his age group yet still managed to break goal records everywhere.

He scored 40 goals in 28 appearances at U-17 level in 2017/18. He scored 50 in 28 at the same level the season after.

The striker made the jump to U-19 football for 2019/20, despite only turning 15 around halfway through the season, and scored 38 times in 28 appearances.

And he’s scored a hat-trick in each of his four U-19 games so far this season – three in the league, and one in the cup – netting 13 times in total.

“He’s never been the kind of player who relies on his talent,” said Lars Ricken, Dortmund wonderkid turned academy boss.

“Young players are often accused of that but he’s developed consistently, every year.

“He has done everything to make the jump to the professional game.”

A short and stocky centre-forward, Moukoko is left-footed but comfortable with his right and catches defenders off balance with his ability to get shots off quickly. He’s strong with his back to goal and always alert inside the box, anticipating and reacting quicker than opponents.

The youngster has a great burst of acceleration and, despite his age, more than holds his own physically against bigger, older players.

No wonder he scores so often, and no wonder Dortmund think he’s ready to play at the highest level.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re scoring three or four goals for the U-19s,” chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke told Sky Sports. “If you’re doing it regularly, you have that goal-gene.”

The question now is whether he is ready to do that against professionals but Dortmund sound confident, even as they temper expectations. Dortmund have had the striker training with the first team since January, with all eyes on his sixteenth birthday, and believe he is ready for Bundesliga football.

“Now is the time to start,” said ex-BVB captain Sebastian Kehl, who now works at the club as a conduit between the playing squad and the boardroom. “Everyone involved has given their blessing.

“It’s a big step for him. We have to give him space, we have to give him time.”

And he could hardly be at a better club, could he? This season has seen Giovanni Reyna, who turned 18 last week, and Jude Bellingham, 17, become regular starters for Lucien Favre. They join Jadon Sancho, who has over 100 Dortmund appearances under his belt at 20, and Erling Haaland, another household name at the same age, in the side.

“Moukoko is much better than I was at his age,” Haaland told reporters after training with the striker in pre-season. “I have never seen such a good 15-year-old in my life.”

Dortmund have handed a Bundesliga debut to four of the youngest seven players to ever play Bundesliga football but none have had the hype of Moukoko. Not that he’s allowing that to affect him.

“I’m just here to help the team,” he told Dortmund’s in-house media this week.

“I’m not thinking about the 21 November, I know I’ll make my debut at some point. I know what people write about me, I read it, but it doesn’t add any pressure for me.”

Of course it doesn’t. After all, if he was so worried about the pressure, it would have already halted his progress by now.