Bundesliga beware: Dortmund's teen goal machine Moukoko about to be unleashed

Youssoufa Moukoko Borussia DortmundBundesliga

Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland, Ansu Fati – all potential generational talents, but all players who slowly developed before truly exploding onto the global stage.

While all three were spoken about in hushed tones by those in the know ahead of their senior debuts, none received global fanfare until they had proven themselves capable of performing at the highest level.

The same, though, cannot be said of a player who, if he is able to replicate his performances at youth level in the senior game, has all the potential to usurp those who are currently being touted as the heirs to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's thrones.

"[There’s] a young player who plays for Dortmund called Youssoufa Moukoko,” former Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o told  Goal in October. “[He’s] 15 years of age, and he’s the next top player, for me, after Messi."

It is a big claim, but it is an opinion that plenty of others share.

Rarely will a maiden first-team appearance have received more fanfare than when Moukoko finally makes his debut for Borussia Dortmund; an event which could take place on Saturday against Hertha Berlin.

Dortmund's visit to the German capital comes just a day after Moukoko's 16th birthday, and a recent Bundesliga rule change means that a moment that has been over three years in the making is now on the horizon.

Until April, only players who were older than 16 years and six months were eligible to apply for a playing licence in Germany, meaning that Moukoko would, in all likelihood, have been forced to wait until the start of the 2021-22 campaign to take his first steps into men's football.

However, it was decided at the DFL's general meeting in the spring that the required age to receive a licence would be dropped to 16, bringing the Bundesliga into line with the majority of Europe's other leagues.

The change in the law has, unsurprisingly, been dubbed 'The Moukoko Rule'.

Moukoko's potential debut, whether it arrives this weekend or further along into the season, will mark the end of a journey that first began earning admiring glances in the early stages of the 2017-18 season.

Aged just 12, Moukoko was called up to represent Dortmund's Under-17s and, despite playing against boys who were five years older than him, he was almost unstoppable, scoring 40 goals in 28 appearances either side of his 13th birthday.

He backed that up by netting 50 goals – as well as laying on nine assists – the following season before being promoted to the U19s as a 14-year-old at the start of the 2019-20 campaign.

Despite by now being a known commodity, there was still no halting Moukoko, who marked his first season at a new level with a record-breaking 34 goals in just 20 league games, as well as scoring four goals in his first seven UEFA Youth League outings as he became the competition's youngest-ever goalscorer.

This season, he has made just four competitive appearances, but still managed to score 13 goals, with each game ending with him taking home the match ball having scored at least a hat-trick.

In total, over the last three-and-a-bit seasons, he has scored 141 goals in 88 competitive appearances, all while playing against defenders who are between three and five years his senior.

Youssoufa Moukoko goals GFXGetty/Goal

It is a record that, however large the gap between junior and senior football is deemed to be, cannot be ignored.

"He has the goal gene," Dortmund CEO, Hans-Joachim Watzke told Sky Sports Germany. "Whether he's scoring three or four in games for the U19s, if you're doing that regularly, you definitely have the goal gene."

Dortmund, of course, know all about the genetics of great No.9s, with Haaland currently learning his trade at Westfalenstadion, just as Robert Lewandowski did before him.

And if you think Haaland is good, then the Norway international has news for you regarding the teenager who is about to begin battling him for a starting role.

"Moukoko is much better than I was at his age," Haaland told reporters after training alongside the youngster during Dortmund's pre-season training camp in Switzerland. "I have never seen such a good 15-year-old in my life.

"The advantage for him is that he's already playing for Dortmund at the age of 15. At his age, I was still playing for my home town of Bryne."

Youssoufa Moukoko Haaland quote GFXGetty/Goal

Moukoko could hardly be at a better club to continue his footballing education, with Dortmund's reputation as a finishing school for young talent now almost unrivalled across Europe.

Haaland, Jadon Sancho and now Jude Bellingham are the poster boys, though it is hoped that Moukoko – who joined the club from St Pauli as a 12-year-old – will show that the German giants are as good at developing their own talents as they are at rounding off the edges of those who sign for them in their late teens.

"It makes me happy that it's one of our players," former Dortmund midfielder Nuri Sahin – who currently holds the record as the Bundesliga's youngest-ever player at 16 years and 11 months – told Kicker . "When the new rule came out, I quickly realised that my record would soon be broken.

"Youssoufa must now take the next step – the U19s is too easy for him."

"The sun is only shining with him, he has never had rainy days," Sahin added. "But these rainy days will come. Then it's important that you have people around you who accompany you and make you aware that negative headlines are part of it."

For Moukoko's part, he has already had his fair share of rainy days in terms of off-the-field controversies.

Youssoufa Moukoko Borussia Dortmund GFXGetty/Goal

After being brought to Germany by his father from Cameroon, questions have continued to be asked of his age despite evidence having been produced proving that he was born in 2004.

During his first season at Dortmund, Hombruch U17s coach, Matthias Jabsen, called him out, saying: "I do not think he is 12. My boys don't either. I do not understand why the player's father does not have an age test, which would help everyone."

Dortmund's academy coordinator, Lars Ricken, bit back: "He is 12. That is simply a fact; there is no doubt about it."

Earlier in 2020, meanwhile, the Germany U20 international was the victim of racist abuse from Schalke fans after scoring a hat-trick in a meeting between the clubs' two U19s teams, responding on Instagram by saying: "I am proud to be born with this skin colour and will always be proud."

Overcoming such adversity will likely have made Moukoko stronger as he prepares to take his first steps onto the Bundesliga stage.

Rarely has a 16-year-old's debut warranted so much attention. The world is watching, hoping to catch a glimpse of football's next true superstar.

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