Youssoufa Moukoko is very much in the thoughts of Borussia Dortmund coach Lucien Favre, with the tactician revealing the club "have a plan" for integrating the 15-year-old into the first team fold.
Moukoko made his debut for the Dortmund U17s at the age of 12, and began the 2019/20 campaign with the U19s. The 15-year-old has scored 35 goals in 26 appearances this season alone, and was recently rewarded with a maiden call-up to the Germany U19s. Only upon turning 16 on 20 November 2020, however, can he be considered for the senior team. Even then, he will require special dispensation to be able to play in the Bundesliga, unless there is a change to player age rules.
In March, all 36 Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 clubs will vote on whether players under the age of 17 should be allowed to play for their club's first team.
And Favre has earmarked as soon as next month as the perfect time to introduce the teenager to the BVB senior setup.
"We have a plan with him, but I can't say exactly when he’ll join us," said Favre in his pre-match press conference ahead of this weekend's visit of Freiburg to the Signal Iduna Park.
"Maybe in March, but we still have to wait on a few things."
Moukoko scored a scarcely believable 90 goals in 56 competitive matches for the Dortmund U17s. He made his youth international debut for the Germany U16s aged 12 years, nine months and 22 days, before a conscious decision was made to shield him from the external pressures of the modern game. Should he debut for his country's U19s in March, it will be the first time in almost two years he has played for his country.
Unsurprisingly, there is real excitement around Moukoko's development and the club's youth coordinator Lars Ricken believes a senior debut at 16 is a natural next step for a player of his talent.
"We're not trying to break records if the proposal goes through," Ricken told the March edition of the BVB members' magazine. "It's about giving Youssoufa the option of playing in the Bundesliga at 16. By the end of this season, so about three years in the U17 and U19 teams, he will have scored 120 to 130 goals in the Junior Bundesliga. So it makes sense to take him to the highest level. We don’t want to make the burden of expectation that he’s already carrying any heavier than it already is.
"Youssoufa is an exceptional talent who was exposed to a lot of hype at a very young age, and still is," Ricken explained. "That's why we thought, and the player and his family agreed, he should take a step back from the national team. It was the only way Youssoufa could concentrate on what was really important and mature not only athletically and academically but also humanly.
"His development process is far from being finished, but on the right track, and we now think it makes sense that Youssoufa takes the next step and plays for Germany again. We were always in close consultation with him, his family and the [German Football Association] on this matter. To be allowed to wear the national jersey is his big dream. We are happy that Youssoufa is able to realise his dream again."
Moukoko is also eligible to play for Cameroon. He was born to Cameroonian parents in the capital Yaoundé in 2004, but grew up in Hamburg, Germany. The former St. Pauli youth player could, therefore, choose to represent the Indomitable Lions instead of Die Mannschaft at senior international level.
Nevertheless, current Germany coach Joachim Löw is already keeping tabs at a distance on the Dortmund prodigy. "I’ve been speaking to [BVB U19 coach] Michael Skibbe for a while," he revealed earlier this season. "Everyone involved is well advised to wait and let him develop in peace."
Moukoko is also taking things one step at a time. "Of course, it’s very nice to hear something like that and makes you very proud,” Moukoko said on Instagram when asked about Löw’s interest. "But there’s still a long way to go. Everything’s possible."
And that includes a potentially record-breaking Bundesliga debut. Former Dortmund midfielder Nuri Sahin is the youngest player in Bundesliga history, having been granted special dispensation to make his bow at the age of 16 years and 335 days back in 2005. He is also the German top flight's youngest goalscorer, and is still playing at 31 for rivals Werder Bremen.
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