A fascinating route to the top and new contract till 2026 have Borussia Dortmund's Youssoufa Moukoko yearning for more big moments with the Black-and-Yellows and Germany.
It’s been a season filled with incredible memories for the BVB starlet, with big goals in key games against Bayern Munich and Schalke and a taste of World Cup action with Germany. It has all made the 18-year-old sharp-shooter hungry for even more, and he sat down with bundesliga.com just days before penning his new contract till 2026 to explain exactly why.
bundesliga.com: First up, were you surprised to be included in the Germany squad for the recent World Cup?
Moukoko: “It was surprising, [yes]. I received the call one evening from the coach, Hansi Flick. He said I’m in!. I said cool! I couldn’t hide it from my friends. The next day it was already on TV. I saw my name. That was my highlight of 2022.”
bundesliga.com: You were subbed on in the first group game against Japan. How was that?
Moukoko: “It was great. I was hoping we could turn the game around but unfortunately, we lost. Nevertheless, I will take the experience. It was priceless.”
bundesliga.com: Did the defeat against Japan sour the experience slightly?
Moukoko: “I just wanted the three points but it wasn’t to be. It was still cool to be with the boys at the World Cup. Not a lot of players are able to say that, so I’m happy about that. It was a pity that we were knocked out after the third game, but I definitely enjoyed the experience, the training and the time there. In the end, I also met some people. It’s a different culture because everyone’s character is so different. That [experience has] definitely brought me forward.”
bundesliga.com: You were injured for a long time last season. Did that set you back a lot?
Moukoko: “No. At the beginning it was difficult to accept but then it became clear that injuries happen. In the youth academies, I was never injured too badly. I worked on myself and learned a lot about playing less time due to injuries. I'm happy that I went through that because it shows how strong you can be as a player or as a person. In the end, I'm happy that I have been playing so much lately, scoring goals and assisting.”
Watch: Moukoko's 11 career Bundesliga goals to date
bundesliga.com: Speaking of scoring goals, what can you tell us about your dramatic winner and subsequent celebrations in the Revierderby against Schalke last September?
Moukoko: “Honestly, I was a bit angry because I wanted to start the derby. Even in the youth teams, we knew about 'the derby'. The derby is the highlight. When I scored the goal, I let everything out. The emotions and the anger and the happiness that I had in my stomach. Everything together. I will never forget that goal. Sometimes, I go on YouTube and I look at my goals because it gives you such positive thoughts. You get such confidence.”
bundesliga.com: What do you remember of the atmosphere inside the stadium that day?
Moukoko: “The stadium was rocking. I think everyone was hoping and waiting for that goal. I'm still so happy to have scored it. I saw then how the stadium erupted: the coaches, the players, the fans. I think everyone at home on their sofas also erupted. I didn’t even sleep that day. I went out into the city. It was full. It was funny. The people were getting drunk. You could really see what the derby means. I went with my friends. I wanted to get some food and I had to go through the city. I saw the people and I thought, 'wow, this is Dortmund!'”
Watch: Moukoko wins the Revierderby for BVB
bundesliga.com: Then there was your goal in that incredible 2-2 comeback draw against Bayern. Talks us through that.
Moukoko: “[Nico] Schlotterbeck gets the ball and I see he needs a teammate, so in I came. And then [that pass from] Toni [Anthony Modeste]. I have to be honest, it was difficult because my first touch was not quite what I wanted it to be but if you shoot from the edge of the box, it can go in. When it went in, I thought to myself 'we can turn the game around.' The fans were there then. The stadium was again completely crazy. I also have a photo of that at home. Of that goal and of the Schalke goal as a memory.”
bundesliga.com: How did you react after the game, coming from 2-0 down to draw in such dramatic fashion?
Moukoko: “I went crazy. I was tired with cramps in both legs but when we were in the match, I didn’t even notice them.”
bundesliga.com: How important were those goals against Schalke and Bayern in terms of giving you a boost?
Moukoko: “It gives you a huge push because you think to yourself that you can compete and you feel a completely different presence on the field. You're not afraid to make mistakes. If you do, you know you have 10 men behind you that can correct them. It gives you confidence. Even for the team because we fight for each other there. I think I have now finally arrived in the Bundesliga. It has taken a long time but I am there now.”
bundesliga.com: What's life like under the BVB coaching staff?
Moukoko: “Geppi [assistant coach Sebastian Geppert] knows my strengths and [head coach] Edin [Terzic] wants to get the best out of me. That's why they are stricter with me but I understand that. I think if they were nicer to me and kept telling me 'You are great! You are great!', I would relax and say, 'the coaching staff love me'. If they are hard, a player likes that because you know when the going gets tough, you can rely on them.”
bundesliga.com: Did you think you'd get off to a quicker start in terms of your Bundesliga career?
Moukoko: “Yes, but I really didn’t expect it to be this difficult. In the youth academy, you come through and you think to yourself, 'when I get there, it will work itself out,' but you have to steady yourself because there are professionals there that have been in the business a long time. I think no one would say, 'I’ll just give him my place.' Everyone fights for their place. It has taken a long time but somehow, I also feel like I needed this time to get used to it, to get my body used to it. In games against top centre-backs, I think I did very well. Even if I am small, I put my body on the line regardless. After all that, I now know what you need in the Bundesliga, Champions League, DFB Cup to survive.”
bundesliga.com: Was the biggest challenge realising that defenders in the Bundesliga and Champions League are built differently?
Moukoko: “That is where I realised how small I was. Some of the centre-backs are so big. You need to learn how to use your body better. I have been doing that with Edin and Geppi; how to use my body and what my options are and how to get the ball. The [Champions League group stage] game in Sevilla showed me what I can do. That was my moment. I was suddenly there. Everything then came by itself.”
bundesliga.com: With Sebastien Haller fit again, you've got some new competition. Do you admire the way he's fought back from illness?
Moukoko: “Yes, definitely. If you think about what he has gone through and now he is on the pitch. I have huge respect for how he has overcome that, how he has battled. I have also talked to him about it. He said he has sacrificed a lot. Now, looking at him, I told him you can see how fit you've become. I hope we'll be on the pitch together at some point.”
Watch: Dortmund on the Offensive - A New Dimension
bundesliga.com: Do you think you will complement each other well?
Moukoko: “Yes, I think the combination will work well. Edin will have to have a think. The decision is not mine or Seb’s. In the end, I will be happy if he plays or if we both do or if it is just me. The team goes first.”
bundesliga.com: Lastly, who was your childhood hero as a player?
Moukoko: “When I started watching football, it was [Samuel] Eto’o. He was a star. He was the player, the number nine. Everyone looked up to him and wanted to be like him.”
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