Borussia Dortmund and USA teenager Gio Reyna is the youngest American national to play in the Bundesliga, but where does the 17-year-old super talent sit among the German top flight’s all-time list of fresh-faced debutants? bundesliga.com reveals the top 10…
1) Nuri Sahin
Age on debut: 16 years, 92 days
A Dortmund youth product, Sahin made his full debut at the base of a midfield including Thomas Rosicky, playing the full 90 minutes in a 2-2 draw with Wolfsburg on 6 August 2005. A first goal followed - against Nuremberg - on his seventh outing. He also chipped in with six assists in his maiden top-flight campaign. The Turkey international spent a formative stint on loan in the Netherlands with Feyenoord in 2007/08 and moved to Real Madrid in summer 2011, but between times produced a career-best six goals - including a belting free-kick against Bayern Munich - and eight assists during BVB’s 2010/11 title-winning campaign under Jürgen Klopp. Sahin was unable to muscle his way in at Real and struggled for form and fitness whilst on loan at Liverpool, but a return to Dortmund had the desired effect. He added the 2016/17 DFB Cup to his collection in his penultimate campaign at the club, only to fall down the pecking order under Lucien Favre the next year. The 31-year-old left-footer is currently enjoying his second season at Werder Bremen.
Watch: The Nuri Sahin story!
2) Yann Bisseck
Age on debut: 16 years, 99 days
What does Sahin have in common with Yann Bisseck apart from a place in our big top 10 youngest debutants reveal? Both played under Peter Stöger - just not in the same team. Before coaxing the best out of and older-wiser Sahin at Dortmund, Stöger handed Bisseck his Bundesliga debut for Cologne. The Austrian played the teenager from the off in a 2-0 defeat to Hertha Berlin in November 2017, only to be sacked a week later on the back of another defeat to Schalke. Bisseck started that encounter, but a second-half cameo in a 4-3 loss to Freiburg under Stöger’s successor, Stefan Ruthenbeck, was the last Bundesliga audiences would see of the Germany youth international. He featured for the Cologne U19s and reserve teams before moving, via a loan stint at Holstein Kiel - and ANOTHER three competitive outings - to Roda JC of the Netherlands in summer 2019. The Germany U19 international is still awaiting his senior debut for his current employers, but did make the bench in a defeat to Heerenveen in the Dutch Cup and enjoys regular football for the club’s U21 outfit.
3) Jürgen Friedl
Age on debut: 17 years, 7 days
Like Bisseck, Eintracht Frankfurt goalkeeper Jürgen Friedl turned out just three times in the Bundesliga. Like Bisseck, a clean sheet proved elusive. Friedl conceded the only goal of a 5-1 win against Hannover after making making his debut as a 74th-minute replacement for Wolfgang Kleff; was beaten twice on his first and only full Bundesliga start on Matchday 31 of the 1975/76 campaign - a 3-2 win over Fortuna Düsseldorf; and was given the half-time hook in a season-ending victory at home to Dortmund. The Frankfurt native moved on to see out the bulk of his playing career in the backwaters of German football, representing Heinsberg and Bad Vibel before hanging up his gloves in summer 1990.
4) Ibrahim Tanko
Age on debut: 17 years, 17 days
Ibrahim Tanko accumulated a fair share more than three Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund after making his bow against VfB Stuttgart in September 1994. The Ghanaian was only a bit-part player at best, scoring three goals in 52 top-flight games across six-and-a-half seasons as a BVB player, but still picked up two Bundesliga winner’s medals and was part of the all-conquering ensemble that lifted the 1997 UEFA Champions League. He later spent six years with Freiburg, producing eight goals and as many assists in 122 outings in Germany’s top two divisions for the Black Forest dwellers.
5) Gio Reyna
Age on debut: 17 years, 19 days
Unlike Tanko, Reyna could be for keeps. The 17-year-old hadn’t long been promoted to the Dortmund first team when he came off the bench as a a 72nd-minute substitute for Thorgan Hazard in Augsburg on Matchday 18 of the 2019/20 campaign. The former New York City FC academy product had a big hand in one of BVB’s five second-half goals, playing the pass before the pass that enabled Erling Haaland to complete his hat-trick to cap a whirlwind outing that means the US youth international ranks as the youngest American debutant in Bundesliga history, and fifth youngest to pull on a famous black-and-yellow shirt in competitive fare. Needless to say there’s every probability he’ll usurp countryman and Dortmund alumni Christian Pulisic as the greenest non-German to score in the Bundesliga and on the international stage. Watch this space!
6) Josha Vagnoman
Age on debut: 17 years, 24 days
While Reyna was born in Sunderland, England, raised in the US and is presently cooking up a storm in Dortmund, Josha Vagnoman has shown himself to be more of a home bird. The Port City kid climbed the youth ranks of Hamburg, before being thrown in at the deep end one fateful Saturday afternoon at Bayern’s Allianz Arena in March 2018. Through no fault of his own, the teenaged defender was given a chastening introduction to life at the highest level as HSV crashed to an 8-0 defeat - one of 23 on their way to losing their proud status as the only founding Bundesliga member never to be relegated. The right-back appeared only fleetingly in 2018/19, but was enjoying a good run in side the following Bundesliga 2 campaign before seeing his progress checked by a foot fracture.
7) Simon Asta
Age on debut: 17 years, 29 days
Simon Asta also saw in the start of 2020 in the treatment room. The Augsburg prospect ruptured knee ligaments whilst in action for the U19s, little over 18 months after breathing Bundesliga air for the first time as a player when he entered the fray at the expense of Jan Moravek late in a 2-0 loss to Freiburg on Matchday 34 of the 2017/18 campaign. It wasn’t until the final day of 2018/19 that he had the opportunity to do so again on his first senior league start. A bitter-sweet occasion, Augsburg were thumped 8-1 by Wolfsburg.
Age on debut: 17 years, 32 days
Julian Draxler has played his part in some heavy defeats down the years, though more often than not he has been the one inflicting the damage. Following in the footsteps of fellow Schalke talent mine graduates Mesut Özil and Manuel Neuer, Draxler made such an impression as a late substitute on his debut in a 1-0 loss to Hannover that then coach Felix Magath unleashed him on the starting line-up at the next available opportunity. 'Bubi' scored his first of 18 Bundesliga goals for Schalke later that season, and was on target in Schalke’s DFB Cup final drubbing over Duisburg. Long a first-team regular, he netted a single-season career-best 10 goals in 2012/13, before lifting the FIFA World Cup with Germany the following year. Draxler went on to spend two seasons at Bundesliga rivals Wolfsburg (2015 - 2017) and, after captaining Germany to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, moved to Paris Saint-Germain in France, where he has since become a two-time Ligue 1, French Cup and French League Cup champion.
Watch: Julian Draxler, made in the Bundesliga
9) Marc Stendera
Age on debut: 17 years, 32 days
Marc Stendera had been tipped to follow a similar trajectory to the top, once upon a time in Frankfurt. He made his debut at exactly the same age as Draxler, replacing Marco Russ in the second half of a 1-0 defeat to Bayern in April 2013. The former Frankfurt U17 talent was presented with his first start against Draxler’s Schalke, but it was two years before he opened his account and broke through the 20-appearances-in-one-season barrier following a serious knee ligament injury. He helped Germany’s U19s win the UEFA U19 Euros in 2014, but another ACL tear restricted him to just 16 appearances in his final three campaigns with Frankfurt. He did win the DFB Cup in that time, though, and is currently knocking about in Bundesliga 2 with Hannover.
10) Christian Wörns
Age on debut: 17 years, 33 days
The list ends as it started, with a Dortmund player. Christian Wörns got his hands on the Bundesliga title with BVB in 2001/02, and enjoyed a near-decade-long stay that overlapped with a 16-year-old by the name of Sahin making his debut. Wörns had made his some 15 years earlier, albeit for hometown club Waldhof Mannheim in a 1-0 defeat to St. Pauli. He stuck around for another season, despite the south-westerners’ relegation to Bundesliga 2 at the end of 1989/90, but the talent soon outgrew the second tier, and was duly picked up by Bayer Leverkusen. A 66-time Germany international, Wörns won the 1992/93 DFB Cup in his seven years with Die Werkself before repeating the trick in a one-season stint at PSG and returning to the Bundesliga with BVB. Sahin, Wörns, a garnish of Tanko and lashings of Reyna: if the Black-Yellows made club sandwiches, they’d probably be the freshest in the world…