An upcoming rule change could benefit the likes of prolific teenager Youssoufa Moukoko, who will now seek to become the youngest ever player to feature for Borussia Dortmund. bundesliga.com runs through the club's leading top-flight debutants…
A new league ruling, due to come into effect for the 2020/21 season, will allow players to feature in the Bundesliga once they have turned 16. Currently the earliest a youngster can play is at the age of 16 years and six months.
Moukoko has been a scoring sensation for Dortmund at youth level, and the 15-year-old recently earned a call-up for Germany's U19 team as well as the attention of first-team head coach Lucien Favre.
With BVB's latest hot academy prospect set to celebrate his 16th birthday on 20 November 2020, here’s a look at the players Moukoko will be looking to emulate.
1) Nuri Sahin
Age on debut: 16 years, 11 months and one day
Now at Werder Bremen, Sahin still holds the record as the Bundesliga’s youngest ever player. He made his top-flight bow in a draw with Wolfsburg on 6 August 2005, picking up a yellow card in his full 90-minute outing. The future Turkey international would continue to write his name in the record books, becoming the league’s youngest goalscorer during a win over Nuremberg that November. He was aged 17 years, two months and 21 days at the time. No one has yet bettered that feat, with Julian Draxler, Timo Werner and former BVB attacker Christian Pulisic just behind the midfielder in that list of teenage goalscorers.
What happened next: Sahin’s eye for a pass and dead-ball accuracy made him a key player for Dortmund, and he scored six goals and made eight more as Jürgen Klopp’s side won the title in the 2010/2011 season. The academy graduate moved to Real Madrid that summer but cruel luck with injury ruined spells in Spain and on loan with Liverpool. He was reunited with Klopp and Dortmund in January 2013, featuring three times in the UEFA Champions League – including as a late substitute in the final – as his team finished runners-up to Bayern Munich. Now in his thirties, Sahin picked up a DFB Cup winners’ medal in May 2017 before moving to Bremen in August 2018.
Watch: The Nuri Sahin Story
2) Ibrahim Tanko
Age on debut: 17 years and two months
Tanko made his debut in a 5-0 win over VfB Stuttgart in September 1994, and marked his first start in style by scoring against Bayer Uerdingen in January 1995.
Although that was his only goal that season, the Ghanaian played a pivotal role in helping Dortmund secure their maiden Bundesliga title. Late in the campaign, the club were incredibly missing three strikers due to cruciate ligament knee injuries: Flemming Povlsen, Stephane Chapuisat, and Karl-Heinz Riedle. That meant Ottmar Hitzfeld's side had to rely on the so-called “Babysturm” – baby strikeforce – of Tanko and 18-year-old Lars Ricken. The team held their nerve, though, to win the title by one point from Bremen.
What happened next: Tanko unfortunately began suffering from injuries himself after the 1994/95 season. He moved to Freiburg in 2001, finishing with a record of six goals in 109 Bundesliga matches before retiring at the age of 30.
3) Gio Reyna
Age on debut: 17 years, two months and six days
The most recent addition to the top 10 debuted during one of the games of the 2019/20 season. The American had initially watched from the bench as Dortmund hit back from 3-1 down to lead 4-3 at Augsburg. Reyna was sent on in the 72nd minute, though, and played his part in the last of the visitors’ five second-half goals. Fellow substitute Erling Haaland completed a 20-minute hat-trick in what was also his Bundesliga debut.
What happened next: The son of former Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg playmaker Claudio, Reyna is now fifth on the list of youngest players to feature in the Bundesliga – as well as being the youngest American. But he also became the youngest ever goalscorer in the DFB Cup, netting with a long-range stunner in a 3-2 loss at Bremen in February 2020.
Watch: Reyna is living the dream
Age on debut: 17 years, four months and 12 days
Pulisic has already had one record broken by Reyna, then, but he’s still amongst the top 15 youngsters across the league. The Pennsylvania native’s Bundesliga debut was as a substitute in a 2-0 victory over Ingolstadt on 30 January 2016. In April 2017 he became the youngest foreign-born player to get on the scoresheet in the Bundesliga, moving fourth on the all-time list. At the age of 17 years and 212 days, he opened the scoring in a 3-0 success against Hamburg.
What happened next: Now a two-time US Soccer Male Athlete of the Year award winner, Pulisic was part of the Dortmund team that beat Eintracht Frankfurt in the 2016/17 DFB Cup final. The trailblazer for a recent crop of German-based USMNT internationals, he left Dortmund for Chelsea in the summer of 2019. He had chalked up 19 goals and 26 assists in 127 games in black and yellow.
Watch: Pulisic's best moments at Dortmund
5) Marc-André Kruska
Age on debut: 17 years, four months and 15 days
A central midfielder, Kruska first played in a 1-0 reverse at Kaiserslautern in November 2004, before scoring on the final day of that season.
What happened next: The former Germany U21 played 98 Bundesliga games for Dortmund before going on to the likes of Club Brugge, Energie Cottbus, FSV Frankfurt and Paderborn.
6) Mario Götze
Age on debut: 17 years, five months and 18 days
Klopp gave Götze a first taste of Bundesliga action on 21 November 2009, sending him on in the 88th minute of a 0-0 draw with Mainz. It soon became clear why Dortmund had so much faith in their latest academy product.
What happened next: Götze became a Bundesliga champion shortly before his 19th birthday, chipping in with six goals and 11 assists as BVB clinched the title in May 2011. He won a league and cup double the following season, and will forever be remembered for his extra-time winner for Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup final against Argentina. By the time Götze returned to Dortmund from Bayern Munich in the summer of 2016, he was already a five-time Bundesliga winner.
7) Jadon Sancho
Age on debut: 17 years, six months and 26 days
Sancho’s first-team bow came in a 2-2 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt on 21 October 2017. The Londoner later admitted to being “scared” when he was introduced late in the game, and recalled how he was “dropped to the floor” when attempting his first dribble. It didn’t take long, however, for the former Manchester City player to get up to speed.
What happened next: Dortmund’s gifted number seven made 12 appearances in his first year in Germany, before becoming a genuine star and a full England international during his second. Many a defender was left bamboozled by the winger’s trickery, and he finished with 12 goals and a league-high 14 assists in 2018/19. In August last year, Sancho became the youngest player to reach 15 career Bundesliga goals, and before the coronavirus intervened he had an astonishing 14 goals and 15 assists for the 2019/20 campaign.
8) Sergio Gomez
Age on debut: 17 years, seven months and four days
Signed from Barcelona in January 2018, Gomez made his senior debut in a 3-0 win over VfB Stuttgart three months later. The attacking midfielder then got another handful of minutes against Leverkusen later that month.
What happened next: A European champion with Spain at U19 level, the teenager returned to his homeland to spend the 2019/20 season on loan at Huesca.
9) Lars Ricken
Age on debut: 17 years, seven months and 27 days
Ricken actually first appeared for Dortmund in the first leg of their UEFA Cup quarter-final tie against Inter Milan, and scored in their second-leg victory. In between, the future Germany international made his Bundesliga bow – coming on in a 2-1 home defeat against Stuttgart on 8 March 1994.
What happened next: The attacking midfielder finished with 49 goals in 302 appearances, and was a three-time Bundesliga winner with his local club. In case that hadn’t been enough, he made sure of achieving club legend status with an incredible lob to seal a 3-1 win over Juventus in the 1996/97 Champions League final. Now working as Dortmund’s youth coordinator, Ricken has overseen the development of players like Moukoko, Pulisic, and Reyna.
10) Eike Immel
Age on debut: 17 years, eight months and 17 days
Immel didn’t have much to do on his first appearance for Dortmund – in a 14-1 hammering of lowly Schwenningen in the DFB Cup. On 12 August 1978, though, the goalkeeper was thrown in at the deep end on the opening weekend of the Bundesliga season. Bayern Munich – with Uli Hoeneß, Gerd Müller, and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in attack – were the visitors this time. Unlike a week previously, however, Immel kept a clean sheet as Dortmund held on for a 1-0 success.
What happened next: Immel remained with Dortmund until a big-money switch to Stuttgart in 1986. He was a UEFA Cup finalist in 1989, and won the Bundesliga in 1991/92. A former West Germany international, he clocked up 534 Bundesliga appearances before rounding off his career with Manchester City between 1995 and 1997.