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Youssoufa Moukoko might be the next big thing

It's fair to say that Borussia Dortmund have had a bit of a disappointing season up until now. As of writing, the popular German football team sits fifth in the highly competitive Bundesliga and is eight points below league leader Bayern Munich. They've dropped points in crucial matches against mid table clubs like Augsburg and Eintracht Frankfurt as well as relegation challenger FC Köln. Dortmund's season took a turn into the unknown on December 13th after it was announced that manager Lucien Favre was fired one day after his boys were thrashed 5-1 at Stuttgart.

If anything has been working at Dortmund, however, it's been their high flying attack led by winger Jadon Sancho and striker Erling Haaland. While the former has yet to score in the Bundesliga as of writing, the latter has bagged 10 goals even though he's only played in eight matches. Across the five major leagues in Europe; England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, only Robert Lewandoski (1.54) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (1.70) have averaged more goals per 90 minutes than Haaland (1.38).

Photo Credit - Soeren Stache/dpa via AP
Photo Credit - Soeren Stache/dpa via AP

Beyond Sancho and Haaland, Dortmund's stacked attack also sports fan favorite Marco Reus, brother to Eden, Thorgan Hazard, and of course American wunderkind Gio Reyna, who will surely receive one of these treatments in the future. However, above all those guys and others like Reinier, Jude Bellingham, and Axel Witsel is a young player who has quickly cast a spell on the mammoth fanbase of the BVB. And that player is 16-year-old striker Youssoufa Moukoko.

If you follow Wonderkids on Instagram (@wonderkids), then you've probably seen enough on Moukoko to write your own blog post, but suffice to say that many in the world football community were eager to witness the German's senior debut ever since the end of last season, when many of us learned about him. That's because over the past few years, this teenager flawlessly soared up Dortmund's youth team ranks in record time, all the while scoring barrels of goals on a weekly basis.

According to FBref, one of the Internet's preeminent world football statistic sites, Moukoko started his ascension in 2017 when he was called up to Dortmund's Under 17 side. He was only 12 years old at the time. Before this, Moukoko had been working within Dortmund's famed youth academy for only a year. He joined the club in 2016 after starting his youth training with St. Pauli.

Photo Credit - DE24 News

During his first season at the U17 level, he appeared in 25 matches and scored 37 times. Not only was his goal tally the highest in the league, but the player in second place, Hertha Berlin's Lazar Samardzic, scored only 24. Additionally, his 37 goals broke the record for most goals in a single season in the league's history. It was a record that wouldn't last, however, as it would fall only a year later after Moukoko scored a jaw-dropping 46.

His clinical finishing in and around goal was quickly noticed by the brass at Borussia Dortmund and after completing his historic second campaign with the U17s, Moukoko was sent up the chain to Dortmund's U19 side. You'd be forgiven if you thought it would take time for the 14 year old to acclimate to the pressures of the higher level, but it only took one match for the youngster to stun fans across Germany once again.

During his debut match for the Borussia Dortmund U19 squad, Youssoufa Moukoko didn't score one goal.

He didn't score two.

Or even three.

No, during his debut match where he competed against players who were up to five years his senior, he scored six times! He bagged a double hat trick! Most of you reading this probably couldn't even do that in your dreams, I know I couldn't.

The only person, it seemed, who wasn't utterly flabbergasted by this unbelievable feat was Moukoko's own coach Michael Skibbe, who told the press following the contest that, "(He) will one day become a professional. That's as safe as the amen in the church."

Over the course of the rest of the season, Moukoko continued to embarrass and demolish opposing defenses. After five games, he had 10 goals. After 10 games, he had 18. In all, the youngster finished the 2019-20 campaign with 20 games played and 34 goals. Not only did his goal total beat the U19 Bundesliga single season record, but he broke the record during a shortened season, as the final 6 games were cancelled due to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine. If he stayed at the pace he was on, he conceivably could've upped his goal tally to around 40.

Moukoko's first season with the U19s was so impressive, that it could be argued that it caused the German Football Association, the DFB, to lower the age requirement for players to play at the senior level down to 16 years old. In an expose published on the Bundesliga's own website, a host of people at Dortmund praised Moukoko as a player who possessed the "goalscoring gene".

One such quote came from the aforementioned Erling Haaland, who described Moukoko as being "much better" than he was at that age, and that he's "never seen such a good 15 year old" in his life.

On November 20th 2020, Youssoufa Moukoko finally turned 16 and was instantaneously sent to Dortmund's senior side. A day later, the 16 year, one day old forward became the youngest person to appear in a Bundesliga match, beating the previous record held by Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham by one year, two months, and 20 days. Additionally, Moukoko also became the youngest person to ever suit up for Borussia Dortmund, beating that record by 10 months and 17 days.

Just a couple weeks later, on December 8th, Moukoko came on as a substitute during a Champions League group stage match, making him the youngest player to ever compete in Europe's most prominent club competition. He bested the previous record by two months and seven days. And while he wasn't able to beat the record for youngest goal scorer in the UCL (UEFA Champions League), he still has about seven months to to do so.

And while that was all great, there was one thing missing from Moukoko's exciting introduction to world football. He wasn't scoring any goals. Now I don't think this should be blamed on Moukoko because while he was making appearances, manager Lucien Favre was not giving him enough minutes so that he could get settled. During his debut match, he played only five minutes. During his fourth, which was that 5-1 loss to Stuttgart I mentioned earlier, he played only four.

When he was allowed to run around for a while longer, it can be noted that Moukoko improved game after game. According to WhoScored, a site that grades players' performances in each match from one to ten, the 16 year old sported better ratings in each subsequent Bundesliga match where he played double digit minutes. Against Koln, he ended up with a 6.06. A week later, he received a 6.22 against Eintracht Frankfurt. Shortly after, he got a 6.36 after a win against Werder Bremen, which also was Dortmund's first contest with Favre as manager. And lastly, he finished 2020 with a rousing 7.58 against Union Berlin.

That score can be largely attributed to the fact that after just over a month of action with the first team, Youssoufa Moukoko made history when he scored his first ever senior level goal. And with that, not only did Moukoko beat the record for youngest goalscorer in the Bundesliga by over a year, but he also gave notice to the rest of Europe that there's a new up-and-coming superstar on the rise.

Right now, there is an unbelievable wealth of young and hungry wunderkinds currently competing all around the world. And while there are those who are hogging the spotlight in some regard, I hope that this little look at Youssoufa Moukoko will illustrate that there are so many more to be discovered and celebrated. Over this next year, I hope to introduce you all to some more players who I find intriguing, and also give you all an understanding as to why world football is on the shortlist for best sport in the world.

With that being said, next week we will turn our focus to my other favorite sport, baseball. See you then!


Featured Image was taken from Sports Illustrated

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