Borussia Dortmund have handed 15-year-old wonderkid Youssoufa Moukoko the number 18 shirt ahead of the 2020/21 campaign as the teenager edges ever closer to the first-team fold.
Moukoko has been a revelation at youth level, scoring 128 goals in 86 appearances for the Dortmund U17s and 19s. He will continue to represent the U19s next season, but train with the senior squad as of August.
The Cameroon-born Germany youth international - who inherits the No.18 jersey previously worn by Leonardo Balerdi, as well as club legends Lars Ricken and Nuri Sahin - will be eligible to make his Bundesliga debut upon turning 16 in November 2020.
Watch: A 13-year-old Moukoko's wonder goal for the Dortmund's U17s
"Youssoufa is one of us, he belongs in the squad and should be introduced to professional football," Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc told Ruhr Nachrichten.
"He's an outstanding talent, but still very young. He should stay with us, but the plan is he plays in the U19s. It's important that he continues to get match practice."
Dortmund's former youth coach Benjamin Hoffmann believes Moukoko is more than capable of hanging with the seniors.
"I think he can keep up physically and football-wise there," Hoffman told SPOX.
"Aside from his footballing development, he has developed a lot mentally under Sebastian Geppert over the past two years and has matured significantly."
Moukoko has broken a number of records in Dortmund’s youth side, and scored a whopping 34 goals for the U19s in 2019/20 alone.
The DFL's decision to drop its minimum age criteria to 16 for the new campaign could see him line-up alongside former U19s teammate Gio Reyna in the Bundesliga later in 2020/21.
Reyna only joined Dortmund's U19 side from the New York City FC academy in summer 2019, but was promoted to the senior squad in the new year on the back of his four goals and seven assists in 12 outings for the youth side.
The 17-year-old went on to make 18 appearances for the 2019/20 Bundesliga runners-up during the Rückrunde, usurping former BVB ace Christian Pulisic as the youngest American national to appear in the German top flight. He scored his first goal in the DFB Cup Round of 16, and produced assists for Erling Haaland against RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga and Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League.
“Introducing young players from our own youth academy to the professional squad will always remain our focus, that's what Borussia Dortmund stands for," affirmed Zorc at the end of the 2019/20 campaign in which the Black-Yellows finished as runners-up behind Bayern Munich.
"Lucien Favre and I talked…about the fact that we want to integrate him [Moukoko] into our team, that he immediately learns to train and play with adults."
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