Youssoufa Moukoko has moved up to join the Borussia Dortmund first-team squad for the start of the 2020/21 season. The young striker will be eligible to play in friendly and competitive matches once he turns 16 on 20 November 2020.
Moukoko joined BVB in the summer of 2016 and immediately made headlines. At 12 years of age, he was already playing for the U17s. His prolific goalscoring helped the side win the 2018 German Championship and reach the final in 2019. In total, he scored 127 goals in 84 appearances at U17 and U19 level.
“Sometimes I sit in my room and think about how I got here and how fast everything has happened. Now I play for Borussia Dortmund, and I have away trips to Barcelona, Milan or Prague - a few years ago, I just kicked a ball around with my friends for fun.” In Cameroon, where Youssoufa spent his early years living with his grandparents before moving to Hamburg in 2015, things were very different: “We only had one ball, and if it got kicked away, then we didn’t have a ball anymore. I know how hard it still is for a lot of people there. We didn’t have any football boots or jerseys. I often talk to my friends about this time.”
Youssoufa has been carefully developed - and challenged - at BVB. "We wanted to give him the best possible protection and not put him on a pedestal," says youth coordinator Lars Ricken. It was a conscious decision on the part of the club and the player’s family not to push the exceptionally talented youngster into the limelight. In any case, it’s not clear where Youssoufa’s journey will take him. "He has great talent, there's no question about it," says Ricken: "but talent alone won't get you to the top. Youssoufa is incredibly hard-working. He trains a lot, is very ambitious and always wants to win and score goals. And through all of this, he has never lost the sense of joy in the game."
"We’re not going to rush anything. We want to see how he gets on during pre-season. He hasn’t played a competitive match since March, as the U19 Bundesliga was cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak,” said sporting director Michael Zorc at the club’s 2020 training camp in Bad Ragaz, going on to add: “Of course the plan is to keep him here in the long term.”
Speaking after training camp, head coach Lucien Favre had the following to say about Moukoko: “I’ve been really impressed by him. He has enormous potential. You never know which foot he’s going to shoot with. He’s very young, but also very efficient. It’s great to see. It’s a real pleasure to work with him.” The 15-year-old has also impressed his teammates: “He’s a lot better than I was at that age. I’ve never seen a 15-year-old as good as him,” said Erling Haaland, four-and-a-half years his senior, adding: “He’s already training in Dortmund - when I was his age I was still in my hometown of Bryne.” Captain Marco Reus tempered his words of praise with a note of restraint: “Youssoufa is a top lad and an unbelievable talent for his age. But I think we would do him a big favour if we stopped talking about him so much. I hope he gets the chance to develop in peace.”
Youssoufa Moukoko could have chosen to represent Cameroon - the country of his birth - at international level, but instead he decided to play for Germany. He made his debut for the U16s in a 3-1 win over Austria on 11 September 2017. At the beginning of 2020, after a long and deliberately planned break, he received a first-ever call-up to the U19s. However, the scheduled matches were called off due to the Coronavirus outbreak. In September 2020, he was named in the Germany U20 squad.