These players broke the record for making an early-age appearance at the most prestigious stage in club football.
In football, we are witnessing the rise of many young players over the years as they get a chance to demonstrate their qualities in competitions. And Europe’s most prominent tournament, the Champions League, is the best platform for young players to make their statement debuts, as it helps them grow their reputations, and if they manage to impress in the tournament, big teams will cash in to buy them.
And over the years, we have seen many young talents who have broken records by becoming the youngest debutants in the Champions League. Below, we have listed the top five youngest players to make their debut.
Plenty of chances but no finished product
5. Youri Tielemans (16 years 148 days) – Anderlecht 0-3 Olympiacos, 2 October 2013
Midfielder Tielemans first caught the attention of Anderlecht when he was five years old. He then advanced quickly through the ranks, making his UEFA Champions League debut by playing the full 90 minutes of the Belgian club’s home loss to Olympiacos. Before turning 20, Tielemans led Anderlecht. He later transferred to Monaco and assisted Belgium in reaching the 2018 FIFA World Cup semifinals. Currently, he plays for Leicester City in England.
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4. Alen Halilovic (16 years 128 days) – Dinamo Zagreb 0-2 Paris Saint-Germain, October 24, 2012
Dinamo were on the verge of losing to Paris at home when the waif-like Halilovic trotted on for the final five minutes. The son of former Dinamo star Sead Halilovic, who was hailed as the most promising Croatian prospect since Luka Modric, has already broken the record for the youngest scorer in Primera Liga history. However, the 24-year-old attacking midfielder has lately signed with English second-tier team Birmingham while still looking for a significant professional breakthrough.
3. Rayan Cherki (16 years, 102 days) – Zenit 2-0 Lyon, 27 November 2019
The offensive midfielder, who had been a substitute three weeks earlier when he could have tied Babayaro’s record as the youngest debutant in the Champions League, was inserted 74 minutes into OL’s match against Zenit. The month prior, Cherki had just made his Ligue 1 debut. Prior to being promoted, the teenager displayed his talent by scoring four goals in three UEFA Youth League matchdays. He had previously scored in that competition when he was 15 years old in September.
2. Celestine Babayaro (16 years 86 days) – Steaua 1-1 Anderlecht, 23 November 1994
When he started for Anderlecht at Steaua in the 1994–1995 group stage, the Nigerian left-back broke the record for being the youngest debutant in UEFA Champions League history. But after a record-breaking debut, Babayaro became the youngest player in the league to be dismissed 37 minutes later, shattering yet another record. In west London, he won the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup after joining Chelsea in 1997.
1. Youssoufa Moukoko (16 years and 18 days) – Zenit 1-2 Dortmund, 8 December 2020
Moukoko, a striker, set the new mark after Céléstine Babayaro’s previous record stood for ten years (minus three days). He joined Dortmund in 2016 and played for their U17s at age 13 and for the U19s a year later. At age ten, he was a productive player for St. Paul’s Under-13s.
He trained with Dortmund’s first team in January 2020 when he was just 15 years old, and on November 21, a day after turning 16, Moukoko made history by entering the game against Hertha as the league’s youngest player ever. After sitting on the bench for two UEFA Champions League matches, he made his senior European debut just over a fortnight later.
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