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THE FINISH LINE

Germany's latest football prodigy set to make history

Cameroon-born Youssoufa Moukoko, 16, is in line to make his debut for Borussia Dortmund this weekend

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Moukoko has already trained with Dortmund's first team on the back of his goalscoring feats for the youth team.

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Germany national coach Joachim Loew says: "Youssoufa Moukoko has a talent that you don't come across that often."

Berlin

TEENAGE prodigy Youssoufa Moukoko could become the youngest debutant in the history of Germany's top football league this weekend as his club, Borussia Dortmund, have hinted that the German goalscoring sensation may make his senior debut.

Moukoko turned 16 on Friday and if he plays in the match against Hertha Berlin on Saturday - be it as a starter or a substitute - he will set a new Bundesliga record having already sent goal records tumbling in German youth football. The Cameroon-born teen has already played for Germany's Under-20 side this season and is relishing the prospect of his Bundesliga debut.

"I read what the media write, but I don't put pressure on myself," Moukoko told Dortmund's website in a rare interview during which the club hinted he could feature at some point in Berlin. Even if his league debut only follows in the coming weeks, the confident teen is "not worried - I know I will make my debut at some point".

Nuri Sahin, whose record is under threat, wants Moukoko to make his Bundesliga debut, because "the Under-19s is too easy for him". Sahin, now 32, was 16 years and 335 days old when he made his Dortmund debut back in 2005, giving Moukoko ample time to break his record.

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Moukoko could also make his Champions League debut this autumn, to break the record of Celestine Babayaro, who was 16 years, 87 days when he played for Belgian club Anderlecht in the 1994/95 season.

Moukoko has already trained with Dortmund's first team on the back of his goalscoring feats for the youth team. Despite often facing opponents four years his senior, the robust 15-year-old is currently captain of Dortmund's under-19 team and has scored 13 goals in just four games so far this season.

Lucrative deal

His statistics are part of a mind-blowing total of 47 goals with 10 assists in just 25 matches for Dortmund's under-19 side over two seasons.

Dortmund are doing their best to shield him - all interview requests are automatically denied - but his name is already well-known at the top levels of German football.

"Youssoufa Moukoko has a talent that you don't come across that often," said Germany national coach Joachim Loew.

Moukoko already has more than 700,000 followers on his Instagram page and a lucrative sponsorship deal with sports goods giant Nike. The latter provided an endorsement contract worth several million euros before Moukoko even turned 15. Dortmund recently announced that they would soon be giving him a significant pay rise so that he will earn up to three million euros (S$4.8 million) per season.

Moukoko was born in Yaounde, Cameroon, and moved to Hamburg, his father's home city, in 2014 where he first started playing for St Pauli's junior side. In 2016, he switched to Dortmund's youth academy, where he started breaking goal-scoring records, sparking unfounded doubts over his age.

As a 13-year-old at the start of 2017/18, he banged in 40 goals in 28 games for Dortmund Under-17s including the winning goal in the play-off final against Bayern Munich.

He topped that with 50 goals in 28 games in 2018/19, including 46 in the league to set a new youth record at Under-17 level.

Last season, he moved up to Dortmund's Under-19s just before his 15th birthday and dismissed doubts about his ability at the higher level with six goals on his stunning debut in a 9-2 demolition of Wuppertal. He finished the 2019/20 campaign with 38 goals in 28 games, and talk of a Bundesliga debut soon started.

"We would all do well to watch Youssoufa's developement in a relaxed fashion with a bit of patience," said German FA sports director Joti Chatzialexiou.

The teenager is already showing maturity beyond his years. Last month, Moukoko scored a hat-trick as Dortmund's Under-19 side beat Schalke 3-2, but his brilliant display was overshadowed by racist abuse from home supporters in Gelsenkirchen. Schalke apologised to Dortmund and Moukoko, who responded by taking a knee after scoring in his next game to join the "Black Lives Matter" protest. AFP

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