Rayan Cherki is still only 20...

Where are they now? The 10 youngest players to play in the Champions League

The Champions League has long been considered club football’s biggest competition and plenty of the game’s biggest stars made their name as a youngster on the big, European stage.

With the football fixture calendar becoming increasingly stacked, clubs aren’t afraid to rotate in Europe anymore and will give opportunities to their most promising young talents when possible. Some of them thrive, others end up the answer to a pub quiz question.

We’ve taken a look at the 10 youngest players to play in the Champions League and checked in on how they’re doing right now.

10. Dario Essugo

Aged 16 years, eight months and 23 days when he debuted in the competition in December 2021, Essugo couldn’t help Sporting CP avoid a 4-2 defeat to Ajax, but remains at the club to this day.

He’ll turn 19 in March and is currently on loan at fellow Primeira Liga side Chaves, earning some valuable senior minutes.

9. Kenneth Zohore

Former Cardiff City man Zohore was just 16 years, eight months and 19 days old when he debuted in the Champions League for Copenhagen in 2010,away to Barcelona at the Camp Nou, no less.

He left for Fiorentina in 2012, but has been on the path of a journeyman ever since. He spent a fair amount of time in British football with Cardiff, West Brom and Millwall, but is now 30 and playing for Polish side Śląsk Wrocław.

8. Charalampos Mavrias

Another 2010 debutant, Greek utility man Mavrias was also just 16 at the time of his maiden Champions League appearance, playing the closing minutes for Panathinaikos against Rubin Kazan.

Three years in Sunderland soon followed for Mavrias who – now 29 – has also since played in Germany, Croatia, Scotland and Cyprus.

Capped 13 times for Greece, he currently plays his football for Panetolikos.

7. Warren Zaire-Emery

The sky truly appears to be the limit for young Zaire-Emery, whose 2023-24 campaign at PSG appears to be going under the radar – which is a testament to how well he’s settled into the star-studded side following a breakthrough 2022-23 season.

He made his Champions League debut in a 7-2 thrashing of Maccabi Haifa in October 2022 and has already won a Ligue 1 title and a senior cap for France.

Zaire-Emery is still just 17 years old. Frightening. Scott Carson (Manchester City) during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Manchester City 1-0 Inter at Ataturk Olympic Stadium on June 10, 2023 in Istanbul, Trkiye.

READ: The 24 players to win the Champions League with more than one club

6. Youri Tielemans

Aged just 16 years, four months and 25 days, Tielemans’ emergence at Anderlecht felt like we were witnessing a superstar blossoming in real-time.

A move to Monaco followed and before long he was in the Premier League with Leicester City. There was a point where Tielemans was perhaps one of the most underrated midfielders in the league, but a decline in form coincided with Leicester’s relegation season.

He’s since moved onto Aston Villa, however, and after a slow start he’s beginning to look like a bargain on a free transfer. A just 26, he’s got his best years ahead of him.

5. Alen Halilovic

Debuting as a substitute for Mateo Kovacic in 2012 at Dinamo Zagreb, Croatian midfielder Halilovic was touted as one of the game’s best young talents.

When Barcelona snapped him up in 2014, it told us all we needed to know about his potential. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for the Croatian with La Blaugrana and he left in 2018 to sign for a seriously broken Milan outfit.

His CV is patched together with loan spells between the two giants, before a two-year stint in the Championship with Birmingham and Reading. Now 27, 1- times-capped Croatia international is plying his trade for Fortuna Sittard.

4. Rayan Cherki

Lyon’s crown jewel, it feels like Cherki has been around forever now, purely due to the long-time hype that’s surrounded him.

A FIFA and Football Manager legend, the Lyon-born France under-21, Cherki made his Champions League debut aged 16 years, three months and 10 days back in November 2019.

The demise of Lyon this season has resulted in the hype around Cherki dying down somewhat with his performances suffering, but he’s still only 21 and possesses a scary amount of raw talent.

3. Celestine Babayaro

Barely 16 when he made his Champions League debut with Anderlecht, Babayaro also set a record as the youngest player to be sent off in the competition in 1994.

It wouldn’t define him, though, enjoying a strong career that saw him play for Chelsea, Newcastle and LA Galaxy before his 2010 retirement, where he hung up the boots having been capped 27 times for Nigeria and having won a number of honours at Stamford Bridge.

2. Lamine Yamal

We are truly sick of waxing lyrical about Yamal. The kid is extremely special.

Xavi might not have pulled up too many towers during his time as Barcelona manager, but winning La Liga and bringing Yamal through were two exceptionally important bits of work. Lamine Yamal (Barcelona) Football/Soccer : Spanish "Joan Gamper Cup" match between FC Barcelona 4-2 Tottenham Hotspur FC at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys in Barcelona, Spain.

READ: 7 depressingly recent events that are older than Barcelona wonderkid Lamine Yamal

1. Youssoufa Moukoko

18 days after his 16th birthday, Moukoko made his Champions League debut for Borussia Dortmund against Zenit in December 2020, becoming the youngest player to date to appear in the competition.

Moukoko’s scoring records at youth level were, frankly, terrifying. Consistently punching above his weight, he’s now only 19 and has spent the last few years nurturing his talent around strikers such as Erling Haaland and Sebastien Haller.

He’s bagged four goals from 19 appearances already in 2023-24 and Dortmund continue to carefully manage his ascent. One for the future.

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