Where are they now? The youngest goalscorers in Europa League history
With league demands often proving too strenuous, some managers turn to the cup competitions, both domestic and in Europe, to try out young players and blood in academy gems.
It is no wonder then that some of the game’s brightest stars first made a name for themselves in the Europa League, before carrying that form over to the big time. Mason Greenwood, for example, shone in the competition during the autumn months of this season, scoring four goals in the group stages.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer simply couldn’t ignore that kind of blistering form, and he soon earned a call up to the Premier League first-team, where he has really come to the fore. But, Greenwood has not been the only fledgling talent able to grasp the opportunity in Europe and make the back pages as a teenager.
There have been some players even younger than Greenwood finding the back of the net in the Europa League. Most of us were worrying about our driving theory test and Pythagoras’ theorem at 16 and 17. But not these lads. They were scoring on the grand stage against European royalty before their first strand of facial hair broke out.
With that, we’ve taken a look at the top 10 youngest scorers in Europa League history – excluding qualifying rounds – and had a gander at where they are now. Did these tyros push on and live up to the hype? Or did they fall victim to the sink-or-swim nature of modern football?
10. Stelios Pozoglou
Age at time of scoring: 17 years and 325 days
Club then: PAOK
Club now: Veria
The former Greece U19 international made PAOK history in the 2013/14 season. The Double-headed eagle of the North (quite the mouthful that) were quite brilliant in the Europa League group stages that season, progressing to the knockout rounds unbeaten, and in style.
On the final matchday of Group L they came up against eventual table-toppers AZ and their unbeaten record was in serious jeopardy. As the minutes ticked on with AZ 2-1 up, Huub Stevens turned to 17-year-old Pozoglou, who netted a 94th-minute equaliser. Unbeaten record maintained, history made.
Pozoglou became PAOK’s youngest scorer in European competition and the White-Blacks sauntered through. However, since that momentous day for the youngster, he has failed to really push on. At 24 he now finds himself in the Greek third-tier with Veria.
9. Louis Verstraete
Age at time of scoring: 17 years and 317 days
Club then: Gent
Club now: Royal Antwerp
Belgian club Gent were in fine form during the 2016/17 season. The Buffalos made it out of Group H with relative comfort and eliminated Tottenham in the first knockout stage, setting up an epic all-Belgian clash in the last-16 between themselves and Genk. The hard work was done, they had already pulled off a giantkilling against Spurs, surely they would make mincemeat of their Belgian rivals? Wrong.
The comically named Smurfs rallied to a 5-2 win in the first leg and made it 6-2 on aggregate in the early stages of the second. With the game passing Gent by, a roll of the dice saw Verstraete enter the fray, and he scored in the 84th minute to make it 1-1 on the day, in turn becoming the youngest scorer in that season’s competition.
Despite that relative success he only went on to appear 13 times for Gent, and now at 21 he turns out for Royal Antwerp.
8. Mohamed Ihattaren
Age at time of scoring: 17 years and 303 days
Club then: PSV
Club now: PSV
The 18-year-old is one of the most covetous young players across Europe, and with good reason. Chelsea and Man City are among the clubs reportedly keeping tabs on the youngster, who netted in this season’s Europa League at just 17, scoring an equalising goal against Rosenborg to secure a 1-1 draw – becoming 2019/20’s youngest scorer.
The Lightbulbs ultimately crashed out of the group stages after an underwhelming campaign, but they managed to finish fourth in the Eredivisie this season, and will have another bite of the continental cherry this time round, with Ihattaren set to play a prominent role. Watch this space.
7. Filippo Scardina
Age at time of scoring: 17 years and 294 days
Club then: Roma
Club now: Sicula Leonzio
At 28, the Roman can now be found plying his trade in the third-tier of Italian football, but over a decade ago he was lighting up the Eternal City for European powerhouse Roma. In 2009/10 the Giallorossi were cruising to victory over CSKA Sofia in the group stages and then-manager Claudio Ranieri turned to Scardina for a late cameo to impress. He did. Having entered the turf in the 81st minute, he scored just eight minutes later to complete a 3-0 rout.
However, with a cache of talent at the Stadio Olimpico, Scardina found playing time hard to come by and he severed ties with his boyhood club in 2015 after a string of loan spells. Since leaving Roma, he has turned out for a raft of lower league Italian clubs, including latest team Sicula Leonzio.
6. Arnaud Souquet
Age at time of scoring: 17 years and 232 days
Club then: Lille
Club now: Montpellier
Rudi Garcia has moved on to bigger fish since his Europa League days with Lille, with the French tactician set to go head-to-head against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals in charge of Lyon this season, but back in 2010 he was trying to navigate Les Dogues through the continental terrain.
His side eventually came unstuck against Liverpool in the last-16, but in the group stages a 17-year-old Souquet was handed a chance to showcase his talents, and he duly capitalised on the opportunity, scoring the penultimate goal in a 5-1 thrashing of Slavia Prague.
That side featured the likes of Eden Hazard and Idrissa Gueye, so Souquet was always going to find it hard forcing his way into the starting XI, and he eventually left for JA Drancy in 2014. He has since worked his way back up the football ladder and now turns out at right-back for Montpellier in Ligue 1.
5. Dimitris Raspas
Age at time of scoring: 17 years and 186 days
Club then: AEK Larnaca
Club now: AEK Larnaca
AEK Larnaca went out of the group stages in 2018/19 but 17-year-old Raspas was able to make a name for himself, netting against quite big opposition as well, in Bayer Leverkusen, at the BayArena as well. Now 19, he is still on Larnaca’s books, but nothing has since compared to that memorable goal in Germany.
4. Ante Coric
Age at time of scoring: 17 years and 157 days
Club then: Dinamo Zagreb
Club now: Roma
The Dinamo Zagreb talent pool is well-documented, with the likes of Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic hailing from the academy, and Coric could be another to follow in that line. His talismanic exploits for Zagreb have already resulted in a move to Roma, but he is yet to hit the heights of his aforementioned compatriots.
In 2014/15 Coric netted against Astra Giurgiu in a 5-1 win at just 17, and he is still only 23, but a quite underwhelming loan spell at second-tier Spanish club UD Almeria in 2019/20 doesn’t bode well for his future in the Italian capital.
3. Adam Maher
Age at time of scoring: 17 years and 148 days
Club then: AZ
Club now: FC Utrecht
Big things were expected of Maher when he first burst onto the scene for AZ Alkmaar. Such were his performances for the Cheeseheads, including that goal at 17 in the Europa League against BATE Borisov in 2010/11, that he received five caps at international level for the Netherlands.
His silky footwork and passing range caught the attention of PSV, who were more than happy to courier around £6m to the AFAS Stadion for his services in 2013. Unfortunately for Maher that’s where his progress and the international caps stopped, and at 27, he now turns out for Utrecht after falling down the PSV pecking order, trying his luck at FC Twente and returning to AZ.
2. Iker Muniain
Age at time of scoring: 16 years and 272 days
Club then: Athletic Bilbao
Club now: Athletic Bilbao
One of only two players to net in the Europa League at just 16, Muniain is one of a dying breed of footballers: the one-club man. It is truly astonishing to think that the two-capped Spain international is still only 27, but that is how long he has been in the game, having first emerged as a precious and ferocious forward.
Once dubbed “the Spanish Messi” by those with the pencils in his homeland, it’s safe to say that Muniain hasn’t quite reached the stratospheric heights set by the lithe Argentine genius, but he has had a tremendous career for the Basque Country club, and continues to do so.
1. Romelu Lukaku
Age at time of scoring: 16 years and 218 days
Club then: Anderlecht
Club now: Inter Milan
Muniain held the record for youngest Europa League for exactly three months. He netted on 17 September 2009, and well, another emerging talent would break that record on 17 December 2009: Romelu Lukaku. The brilliant Belgian was the most sought-after teenager on the planet when he first rose to meteoric prominence with Anderlecht just over a decade ago. He was years above his age and playing at a far superior level to those around him in the Belgian Pro League.
Lukaku has gone on to achieve huge feats in European football, scoring goals for fun at Everton and West Brom, as well as Man Utd in spells, and is now doing the business under Antonio Conte at Inter Milan. He recently bagged an emphatic brace in the Europa League semi-finals and is set to play a key role in the showpiece event this season against Sevilla later this month.