BERLIN (AP)Borussia Dortmund faces the prospect of losing one of the most promising young forwards in Europe for nothing if the club can’t convince Youssoufa Moukoko to sign a new deal.
The 18-year-old Germany striker’s contract is up at the end of the season and Dortmund’s efforts to extend it have so far failed to yield agreement.
”We want to make the decision as soon as possible, of course. It’s important for everyone involved to have clarity,” Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl told the local Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper this week.
Since Jan. 1, Moukoko and his agent have been able to negotiate with other clubs without needing to notify Dortmund as he’s in the final six months of his contract.
Chelsea and Barcelona are reportedly interested, though there’s no doubt that other clubs are paying attention, too.
Moukoko is Dortmund’s top scorer in the Bundesliga this season with six goals from 14 appearances, mostly as a substitute. He also set up four.
Moukoko’s performances earned him a call-up from Germany coach Hansi Flick for the World Cup, though he made only one late appearance at the tournament as the Germans made another early exit.
The teenager has long been considered one of the most exciting prospects in German soccer. After joining Dortmund as an 11-year-old from Hamburg club St. Pauli in 2016, Moukoko quickly rose to prominence by scoring at will despite playing against older players.
Moukoko was the top scorer for Dortmund’s under-15s when he was still 12, helping the team win the Regionalliga West title in 2017. It earned him a call-up for Germany’s under-16s. He played for Dortmund’s under-17s the following year, then the under-19s the year after that, when he was still 14.
Moukoko was scoring so many goals it prompted the Bundesliga to rewrite its rulebook by dropping its minimum age requirement from 17 to 16 in April 2020.
He duly became the youngest player ever to play in the Bundesliga one day after his 16th birthday when he came on for the final minutes of Dortmund’s 5-2 win at Hertha Berlin on Nov. 21, 2020. Less than three weeks later, he became the youngest player to play in the Champions League.
Moukoko became the Bundesliga’s youngest ever goal-scorer with with a fierce strike in a 2-1 loss at Union Berlin on Dec. 18, 2020.
Despite his goal-scoring exploits at lower-league levels, Dortmund has consistently sought to keep expectations down and avoid placing undue pressure on the youngster as he adjusts to the Bundesliga.
This season is the first that the Cameroon-born forward has begun to show he can also be a force to reckon with at the highest levels. Dortmund coach Edin Terzic has been forced to play Moukoko more than he might have otherwise done due to Erling Haaland’s summer departure for Manchester City and his replacement Sebastien Haller’s diagnosis of testicular cancer.
However, Moukoko is still waiting to score his first goal at senior level in European competition.
There’s no question that other clubs can offer the 18-year-old much more money, but Dortmund has shown in the past it can provide a good environment for young players to develop.
Teammate Jude Bellingham joined the club as a 17-year-old and has since become one of the world’s most-sought after midfielders. Haaland, Jadon Sancho, Gio Reyna and Christian Pulisic all rose to prominence playing in Dortmund’s black and yellow colors.
”I’ve been here for seven years,” Moukoko said in November after scoring two goals against Bochum. ”I have the trust of Edin, I know the environment and feel very well here.”
Dortmund fans are watching, and waiting.
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