With some fresh faces setting sights on a European record, we look at the youngest scorers in Champions League history.
The UEFA Champions League is the playground of the elite and the greats, so that only makes it even more satisfying when a young talent bursts on to the scene at the highest level.
The record for the youngest scorer ever in the Champions League belonged to one player for 22 years from October 1997 until December 2019, when Ansu Fati wrote his name in the history books.
Back then, many probably thought Fati could keep hold of the record for another 22 years, there now looks to be a very credible threat. In fact, it almost feels more likely than not that it’ll be broken this season… but more on that later.
First of all, we’ve identified the current youngest goalscorers in Champions League history.
Ansu Fati: 17 years, 40 days old
Barcelona vs Inter Milan – 10 December 2019
Fati enjoyed a remarkable during the 2019-20 season, breaking into Barcelona’s first-team as a 16-year-old before getting off the mark in the Champions League a little over a month after turning 17.
Unfortunately, his career has been blighted by injuries since showing incredible promise during the early months of his time in Barcelona’s senior team.
He needed roughly a minute and a half to stamp his authority on proceedings after coming off the bench in San Siro against Inter back in December 2019. He played a give-and-go on the edge of the box before slamming into the bottom-left corner from 20 yards.
In doing so, he secured Barcelona a 2-1 win and broke a record that stood for 22 years.
George Ilenikhena: 17 years, 119 days old
Royal Antwerp vs Barcelona – 13 December 2023
Scoring a winner against Barcelona in added time is something most footballers can only dream of, but it became reality for 17-year-old George Ilenikhena in December 2023. It secured a famous win for Antwerp, with his strike coming just 86 seconds after Marc Guiu thought he’d rescued a point for the Spanish giants.
Ilenikhena – who was born in Lagos, Nigeria but has played youth football for the French national teams – became the youngest French player to score in the UCL, overtaking PSG’s Warren Zaïre-Emery, who had only set a new record half an hour prior to Ilenikhena’s strike.
It was a memorable night for Antwerp’s youngsters. While he didn’t make this list, Arthur Vermeeren also became the youngest Belgian player to score a goal in the UEFA Champions League (18y 309d) when he netted the first goal of the match.
Antonio Nusa: 17 years, 149 days old
Club Brugge vs FC Porto – 13 September 2022
Porto’s defence was caught high and Nusa exploited the space in behind, latching on to a through ball and showing great composure to roll it home in an emphatic 4-0 win in Portugal early in the 2022-23 Champions League season.
It may not have earned him the record, but there aren’t many players who can say they’ve ever been the second-youngest goalscorer in Champions League history.
Now 18, Nusa has continued to make strides in his fledgling career, earning his first senior Norway caps this year.
Peter Ofori-Quaye: 17 years, 194 days old
Olympiacos vs Rosenborg – 1 October 1997
It may have been a consolation in a 5-1 hammering, but Peter Ofori-Quaye’s turn and finish in October 1997 ensured he’d hold the record for youngest Champions League scorer for more than two decades.
Despite the early promise suggested by such a feat, Ofori-Quaye never quite hit the heights people might’ve expected back in 1997. He remained at Olympiacos until 2003 but only turned out for modest clubs thereafter.
Mateo Kovačić: 17 years, 215 days old
Dinamo Zagreb vs Lyon – 1 December 2011
Dinamo Zagreb is one of Europe’s best talent factories, and Mateo Kovačić ranks among their greatest ever academy products.
He’s obviously gone on to enjoy a fine career at the top of the game, winning the Champions League four times: once with Chelsea, and on three occasions with Real Madrid.
But it all began with this close-range finish in 2011 – otherwise it was a match to forget for Dinamo, who lost 7-1.
Cesc Fábregas: 17 years, 217 days old
Arsenal vs Rosenborg – 7 December 2004
Fábregas was an Arsenal regular just a few months after turning 17; it’s a huge achievement in any era, but the fact he established himself in a team that had gone the previous season unbeaten gave his accomplishment real gravity.
And even in those early months, he looked set to be a bona fide star. His first Champions League goal was a fine example of the quality he possessed, particularly as more of an attacking midfielder in his youth.
Robert Pires knocked down a lofted pass, putting it into Fábregas’ path in the box, and the Spaniard took a touch before impudently flicking it over a defender and firing the bouncing ball beyond the helpless goalkeeper.
Despite his presence at several of Europe’s biggest clubs, Fábregas never won the Champions League, going closest in 2005-06 when part of the Arsenal side that lost 2-1 to his former – and future – club Barcelona.
Bojan Krkic: 17 years, 217 days old
Barcelona vs FC Schalke – 1 April 2008
Bojan was immensely well thought of at Barcelona as he rose through the ranks of La Masia and he even became the club’s youngest ever La Liga goalscorer – at the time – (17 years, 19 days) in September 2007, breaking a record held by Lionel Messi.
That debut season appeared to promise much for the young forward as he scored 12 goals in all competitions, including one in the Champions League that ensured he was the club’s youngest scorer in the competition for over a decade.
He won’t have scored many easier throughout his career either, as Thierry Henry collected Andrés Iniesta’s pass and tested Manuel Neuer, before flicking the follow-up to Bojan for a tap-in.
Bojan went on to win it all for Barcelona, but individually his career never quite hit the dizzying heights many first predicted, retiring in 2023 at the age of 32 after spells with Vissel Kobe, Montreal Impact and Stoke City.
Martin Klein: 17 years, 240 days old
Sparta Prague vs Panathinaikos – 27 February 2002
You’ll be forgiven for not remembering this one; that’s the goal or the player, with all due respect to Klein. The centre-back’s goal was a late consolation header in a defeat that Sparta were seemingly lucky was so slender.
Klein’s impact on the Sparta first team was otherwise minimal, going on to spend the biggest chunk of his career at Teplice. He also represented clubs in Hungary, Kazakhstan, Malta and Turkey.
Breel Embolo: 17 years, 263 days old
FC Basel vs Ludogorets – 4 November 2014
Embolo enjoyed something of a breakout season in 2014-15, scoring 17 goals in 40 matches across all competitions for Basel, including his first in Europe during a comfortable win over Bulgaria’s Ludogorets.
A fine first touch on the chest – plus an excellent display of strength – from Fabian Frei’s lofted through ball put Embolo in on goal, and although his finish may not have had the cleanest of connections, he got enough on it to direct home. Embolo also got himself an assist for Shkelzen Gashi’s goal later on.
He’s since gone on to carve out a decent career in the top European leagues, playing for Schalke, Borussia Mönchengladbach and now Monaco.
Warren Zaïre-Emery: 17 years, 280 days old
Paris Saint-Germain vs Borussia Dortmund – 13 December 2023
Exciting youngster Warren Zaïre-Emery scored the first of what surely will be many UEFA Champions League goals in his career, with a crucial equaliser in PSG’s final group game versus Borussia Dortmund in Germany. His strike in December 2023 made sure of PSG’s progression to the last 16 of the 2023-24 competition.
His goal also meant that he became the youngest scorer for PSG in the UEFA Champions League, overtaking Kylian Mbappé’s record (18 years, 266 days) from September 2017 vs Celtic. Zaïre-Emery was 72 days younger than Karim Benzema when he scored his first UCL goal (17y 352d) for Lyon in December 2005, and set a new record for the youngest Frenchman to score in the UCL, only for that record to be broken by Antwerp’s George Ilenikhena 30 minutes later.
Jude Bellingham: 17 years, 289 days old
Borussia Dortmund vs Manchester City – 14 April 2021
English football fans were already well aware of Bellingham’s abilities; after all, by the time he fittingly scored his first Champions League goal against English opposition, he’d already capped at senior level by England, with only Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott doing so at a younger age.
His first goal in the Champions League was further proof at the time – if it was needed – of Bellingham’s prodigious talent, as he pounced on a blocked shot in the box and guided into the top-left corner of Ederson’s net after showing great composure to set himself under pressure.
That gave Dortmund a 1-0 lead in Germany in the second leg of the tie, levelling the aggregate score at 2-2, though City went on to win 2-1 on the day and progress.
Nevertheless, Bellingham made his mark and has continued to raise the bar ever since, now doing so at Real Madrid, where he’s enjoyed a blistering start.
Aaron Ramsey: 17 years, 300 days old
Arsenal vs Fenerbahçe – 21 October 2008
Ramsey’s first goal in an Arsenal shirt came in an entertaining Champions League victory in Istanbul, scoring the Gunners’ fifth right near the end.
The Welshman found a pocket of space on the edge of the box and, after being found by Emmanuel Eboué, he took a touch and let fly, his effort going in off the post.
Of course, it didn’t make him Arsenal’s youngest ever Champions League scorer, as Fábregas’ strike against Rosenborg came when the Spaniard was 83 days younger, but Ramsey’s goal was the first moment of real note in a largely positive 11-year spell in north London.
Who Could Be Next?
By far the most realistic challenger to Fati’s record is another Barcelona prodigy in Lamine Yamal. In fact, given how he’s taken to top-flight senior football, it’d arguably be more surprising if he doesn’t take the crown.
The gifted winger only turned 16 in July but has established himself in first-team football with almost effortless ease. Were he to break Fati’s record, it’d be just the latest in a string of fine achievements under his belt already.
On 20 August (16y, 38d), he became the youngest player to start a La Liga game this century, and then he made himself the youngest goalscorer in the competition (16y, 45d) when netting against Granada.
Records have also been tumbling at international level; he was 16 years and 57 days old when he made his Spain debut in September, making him more than a year younger than any other player to have ever represented La Roja, surpassing teammate Gavi as the previous record holder.
Given Fati’s first UCL goal came 40 days after he turned 17 and Yamal doesn’t celebrate his 17th birthday until next July, he basically just needs to score in the competition this season to make the record his own.
Arsenal’s Ethan Nwaneri was 16 years and 253 days old when he took his place on the bench for their MD 5 UCL clash with Lens on 29 November 2023. Had he come on, he’d have been the ninth youngest to play in the competition, but would have been the youngest in history if he’d have come on and scored.
Another threat to Yamal’s tilt at history is a little closer to home. Apart from himself and Nwaneri, there have only been two other 16-year-olds named in UCL matchday squads this season; Aidan Harris of Newcastle United, a goalkeeper, so we’re fairly safe to rule him out of the equation, and Yamal’s Barcelona teammate, Pau Cubarsi.
Cubarsi is six months older than Yamal and turned 17 in January, so is at a slight disadvantage there, and he’s also a centre-back, therefore logically less likely to score anyway. Of course, Cubarsi could find the net first as he’s become a fairly regular option for Xavi in recent weeks, but Yamal is young enough that he’d still have time to ensure the record changed hands for a second time in 2023-24.
Either way, Yamal is just touching distance from a landmark goal for European football.