Borussia Dortmund's 15-year-old striker Youssouffa Moukoko will be eligible to make his Bundesliga debut from 20 November, when he turns 16. After his 34-goal season for the U19s, bundesliga.com weighs up his chances…
The first and most important point is that Moukoko can, legally, make his Bundesliga debut once he turns 16. The DFL decided at its general meeting in April to drop the minimum age that a player could be granted their playing licence to 16 from the 2020/21 season on.
It was a decision which delighted BVB youth coordinator Lars Ricken, who made his own debut for the club as a 17-year-old back in 1994. "We're very happy," he said at the time. "It immediately helps the clubs, and also the young players in their development. Most clubs now want to give young, exceptionally talented players the chance to take the next step in absolutely exceptional cases."
An exceptional case?
Moukoko would appear to tick that particular box. For a player who began the 2019/20 season as a 14-year-old, Moukoko's goal-haul for Dortmund's U19s almost beggars belief.
His 34 goals were an all-time record at that level, but they were also scored in just 20 games. Throw in his nine assists and Moukoko had a goal involvement every 40 minutes he played. In other words, coach Michael Skibbe could expect two goals per game with Moukoko on the field, despite him playing against some players five years his senior.
Often youngsters playing in older age groups have a huge physical headstart on those their own age, but whilst Moukoko is neither slow nor weak, it is his game intelligence and technique which has been getting him ahead. Moukoko can keep control of the most awkward of passes, shoots early on his favoured left foot to catch goalkeepers off their guard, and is also ice cold when one-on-one.
Watch: A Moukoko wondergoal against Leverkusen, scored when he was 13!
What's your position?
Moukoko's profile also makes him interesting for Dortmund's overall squad balance ahead of the new season. Erling Haaland is a natural No.9 and will undoubtedly be the first choice to lead Die Schwarzgelben's line having smashed home a goal every 82 minutes since his January arrival from Red Bull Salzburg; and sporting director Michael Zorc has already shut down suggestions of summer shopping in that area.
"We didn't score too few goals last season," he told German sports daily Kicker recently. It is a fair claim given Dortmund ended the season with a club record 84 goals.
Paco Alcacer had contributed five of those before leaving for Villarreal in January, leaving Haaland as the only recognised out-and-out striker, though. Jadon Sancho (16 goals), Marco Reus (11) and Raphael Guerreiro (eight) more than compensated, but in a 40-plus game season, having the chance to rest Haaland with another No.9, even just for a handful of games, could prove welcome.
If you're good enough you're old enough
Trust in youth seems to be Dortmund's mantra. Indeed, BVB are perhaps the best club in world football at blooding young talent. Nuri Sahin remains the youngest ever Bundesliga debutant having first turned out for his hometown club at the age of 16 years, 11 months and one day back in August 2005.
Even last season Dortmund had four first-team regulars still eligible for U21 football - Haaland, Sancho, Achraf Hakimi and Dan-Axel Zagadou - and handed Moukoko's U19 colleague Gio Reyna his full debut in January, just two months past his 17th birthday.
Watch: Sancho and Haaland getting their teenaged kicks at Dortmund
On the cusp
Coach Lucien Favre may have "warn[ed] against unrealistic expectations" with Moukoko, but the youngster has been training intermittently with the first team already.
"The coach and I talked about the fact that we want to integrate him into our team," Zorc said. "So that he quickly learns to train and play with adults."
A full Moukoko debut for Dortmund in 2020/21? The rules mean he could; his talent means he probably should, and BVB's track record suggests they almost certainly would.