Borussia Dortmund come into the 2020/21 season with a plethora of young talent and potential, but the player fans are most excited for is their academy star Youssoufa Moukoko
The Bundesliga is no stranger to being a stage upon which players grow to become stars, their names destined to be known across the world for their footballing prowess. Young players from around the world flock to Germany’s top flight to showcase their talent in a league that is famous for putting its trust in youth.
With so many players moving from abroad, it could be easy to forget that Bundesliga clubs are also very proficient at producing their own talent with some of the world’s strongest academy systems producing talent in factory like fashion. One simply has to look at Chelsea’s recent transfer business to see just how well academy products from Germany’s top clubs have flourished and how valued they are in the eyes of those in leagues abroad. Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic are just a handful of players that have come through the Bundesliga to become household names and that conveyer belt of talent seems to have no intention of stalling. Just as one talent leaves, another is seemingly always ready to take their place.
One of the most electrifying and anticipated players set to make his debut this season is a member of the same academy that helped develop Pulisic: Youssoufa Moukoko. Dortmund’s young striker is set to play a role in the first team come November once he turns 16. Despite his youthfulness, Moukoko has been a name on the lips of many in Germany and beyond because of his displays for Dortmund at youth level.
Before coming to Dortmund’s youth academy at the tender age of 13, Moukoko grew up in the capital city of Cameroon, Yaoundé, under the stewardship of his grandparents. He made the move to Germany to live with his father in 2014, joining FC St Pauli’s youth setup. Moukoko quickly impressed with his stint at the club, scoring 23 goals in 13 games, which caught the attention of German giants Borussia Dortmund. Once at Dortmund, Moukoko’s scoring statistics seemed to undergo an exponential growth from season to season, with the player amassing an astounding 127 goals and 26 assists in 84 appearances.
It wasn’t just Dortmund that noticed Moukoko’s potential, however. While he was putting up these prolific numbers as he rose through the ranks of Dortmund’s youth academy, the German national team also saw their opportunity to have the Cameroonian born Moukoko join their ranks. This was made possible due to the fact that on the night of his birth, his father, Joseph Moukoko, registered his son at the German embassy, thus solidifying his German citizenship in the process. It would be in the advent of the U-17 World Cup in 2017 that Moukoko’s name really took off. At just 12 years of age, Moukoko was touted to be one of the competition’s surprise packages, but the player never made the cut for the tournament. He did however feature for Germany in 2018 in a game against Austria, which indicates he will continue to receive call ups as Germany try to solidify him as a future full-fledged national team player.
Playstyle & Squad Role
Over the course of his footballing education, Moukoko has played mainly as a center-forward, profiting from being the focal point in attack by both scoring and assisting a plethora of goals, as his earlier mentioned statistics show. The numbers Moukoko puts up boast of an impeccable finishing ability, with the player putting 61.54% shots on target, which leads to an impressive 1.77 goals per game on average.
It isn’t merely his ability to finish that makes Moukoko such a top talent, however. Alongside blistering pace and a powerful shot comes a very keen and clever mind for the game of football. According to Max Bergman of Total Football Analysis, Moukoko’s off the ball movement is another reason why he gets and buries so many chances; a player capable of being in the right place at the right time more frequently will have more opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net for his team.
Aside from his ability to put the ball into the back of the net, Moukoko is talented with the ball at his feet. He is able to carve up defenses and dribble past the opposition with relative ease, making him a much more creative forward than the average “fox in the box” type of poacher. Moukoko is also no stranger to long range efforts, which he has shown to be capable of converting for Dortmund’s youth sides. This makes him a threat from anywhere on the pitch and an overall nightmare for opposition defenses to handle.
It is also worth noting that Moukoko is seen as a model player in terms of his commitment to improvement and success. When asked about Moukoko, former Dortmund midfielder and legend Lars Ricken was quick to state the following: “He’s scored a lot of goals, is very inquisitive, hungry for success, hardworking and always comes with a smile that distinguishes him. That’s what we look at. The tools are there.”
Dortmund have been so positive about Moukoko’s development that despite his age, they feel he is ready for the next step. The DFB recently reduced the age of when a player can make their senior debut from 17 to 16, which spurred the club to begin Moukoko’s integration. With this age reduction being confirmed by the DFB, Ricken has supported Dortmund’s decision, claiming the player should be given the chance to take the next step in his career: “He [Moukoko] has scored almost 130 goals in the past three years. At least you have to give the boy the opportunity to take the next step in development…It is clear to me that these are absolute exceptional cases. There aren’t even a handful of players that can be considered over the next few years.”
Ricken’s comments are clear in the sense that he certainly believes Moukoko is the exception and not the rule. So often we have seen the dangers of careers taking off too soon and young players being overloaded with the pressures that are associated with first team football. The club will clearly be taking a tempered approach to his inclusion in the first team and the role he will play, but having torn up the youth ranks the way he has, I’m not surprised that his integration has begun.
For the coming season, I expect to see Moukoko come on rather sporadically for Dortmund, with just enough time for the player to get a taste of what playing for the first team is like. I don’t expect Dortmund to throw him into the starting XI anytime soon, however. Considering his scoring antics, I definitely expect him to still make an impact and we can expect that he’ll notch a few goals this campaign for Dortmund, even with limited minutes. The important task for Dortmund will be to make sure he stays grounded and focused and maintains the work rate and mentality they so praise him for despite his age. If Dortmund manage to pull that off, we should be excited for what the future has to bring for Dortmund’s next prodigal son.
By Brian Szlenk.