There is always the fear within the footballing world that talented youngsters may suffer from too much, too soon. Indeed, the importance of managing their minutes and not placing the weight of the world on their shoulders immediately as they step out into the limelight cannot be underestimated.
But for one man (boy?!), while there have been discussions as to how to manage the hype surrounding his extraordinary rise, this simply cannot be contained. The kid is just too damn good.
Young Borussia Dortmund forward Youssoufa Moukoko celebrated his 16th birthday on Friday, meaning he is now eligible to feature in the first team for the Bundesliga giants. For those who may not know too much about the teenager, discussing the idea of a player who only just turned 16 playing for the first team may seem premature and a little rash.
But this really isn’t the case with Moukoko. This is highlighted by the fact that Dortmund actually handed Moukoko the #18 shirt for the 2020/21 campaign, signifying their intention to utilise him once he became eligible.
Indeed, while still currently playing for the Under-19s, Moukoko has been training with the first team since January. It would have been natural to assume he would have struggled initially to make the step up and needed time to adjust to training with grown adults. But for the teenager, his footballing intelligence and skill has meant he is thriving in training with the senior team.
Having now turned 16, there is great anticipation that Moukoko could make his Bundesliga debut on Saturday when Dortmund take on Hertha Berlin. Despite his age, his senior debut has actually been eagerly discussed for quite some time – that’s how good he has been at youth level.
When Moukoko joined the Under-19s, there was an expectation that this step up for a player still only 14 years of age at the time may result in a drop off in his goalscoring output. But instead, he went and scored six times in his first game.
No, no, no need to rub your eyes, you did read that correct.
In total, the lethal forward has netted 141 times in just…88 youth matches. It’s a simply astonishing record for someone still so young. And he’s been completely dominant as well, with his six goals on his Under-19s debut emphasising just this. Oh, and he has netted three consecutive hat-tricks in his last three games for the Under-19s, grabbing four last time out. Those are unthinkable numbers.
Sure, it’s important not to neglect his age, but his goals record speaks for itself. The Under-19s is simply far too easy for him, how is he supposed to progress and take the next step in his career if he is playing at a level that is clearly well beneath him? The logical next step would be to ease him into life in the first team and give him the chance to showcase his talents at senior level.
Of course, while there has been major talk he could well make his debut on Saturday for Lucien Favre’s side, there is of course the possibility that Dortmund could look to cool the hype surrounding him by leaving him out for the time being. But whether it be Saturday or the following week, or the week after, Moukoko has shown during his career to date that he is more than ready to battle it out on the same pitch as some of the Bundesliga’s finest.
Sure, his goals record is simply baffling, but it’s his all-round game which makes him so complete as a player and ready to compete with some of the German top division’s finest. A powerful striker, Moukoko is able to link play exceptionally well and is more than comfortable with both feet.
But equally, his pace, skill and understanding of the game makes him a very versatile forward, even if he is lethal when operating as the out-and-out centre forward. Despite his goalscoring output and the praise that has been heaped on him by the likes of Samuel Eto’o and Erling Haaland among others, Moukoko has reiterated that he remains focused on only bettering himself as a professional to help him reach the highest heights possible. It’s this maturity which only adds to the belief that the Umder-19s captain is ready to feature in the first team.
Dortmund are in need of a backup striker to Haaland and this could be the perfect role for Moukoko as it would allow Favre the chance to manage his minutes, but also give him the time he needs to adjust to life at senior level. But of course, his all-round ability and versatility means he could be deployed in a number of different positions if needed.
It’s simply a matter of when Moukoko will make his senior BVB debut, with Saturday’s clash with Hertha a possibility. But while it remains to be seen whether this will happen, what is abundantly clear is that the sensational youngster is more than ready to make the step up as the Under-19s level is currently just far, far too easy for him.
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