Just a decade ago, a player making his teenage debut with the first team was headline-worthy news. It was rare, special, and celebrated. Although the promotion of a younger player to the first team is still incredible, it is happening far more often, with teams handing youngsters their debuts almost every week.
I blame YouTube for this madness. Kids are now seeing videos of footballers like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar and are trying to emulate the stars of today. The learning curve for most child prodigies is unreal, especially when you look at the videos and see these kids absolutely terrorizing backlines and making normal youth soccer players look stupid.
The game has changed forever. Players who haven’t even started puberty are playing for the senior team. It’s an astonishing adjustment to the world of football that is obviously paying dividends.
On Borussia Dortmund alone, there are three youngsters of the highest quality that will continue to grow and be key contributors in the side. Christian Pulisic (18 years old), Emre Mor (19 years old), and Ousmane Dembele (19 years old) are not only earning big minutes for the German giants, but producing as well.
This week alone, Karamoko Dembele, who is 13 years old, played with Celtic’s U-20 side and Galatasaray wanted to make headlines of their own and one up Celtic by handing 14-year-old Mustafa Kapi his senior debut in a friendly.
— Galatasaray EN (@Galatasaray) October 8, 2016
Does this mean Arsene Wenger had it right all along?
The ability to integrate more young players into the side makes competition that much stronger and can provide longevity of success at these clubs. Plus, if they’re this good and this age, imagine what their transfer fees will look like when they hit their 20s.
This paradigm shift in how football works may pose a problem to older players on their way out. A more youthful, skillful player is going to get more minutes over a player that is on his way out which could spell early retirement for other footballers or just an early trip to the MLS.
Just watched Stevie Gerrard shank one from like twenty yards out on his right foot I guess MLS really is an retirement league.
— Jen Iacopelli (@jennifercarolyn) October 3, 2016
Which could be a little bit better than signing Designated Players who are 34+…
I don’t expect an elementary age player to be making their debut anytime soon, but what is happening to football with the teenage revolution is unprecedented and should be celebrated.