most exciting young footballers in europe

Rating every 17-year-old to score in Champions League history

Reaching the Champions League is the pinnacle for many players when it comes to club football, joining an exclusive stage where football’s finest compete for the game’s biggest prize.

Taking to the field alongside Europe’s elite can be the highlight of a career, though there are several players who have made an immediate impact on the Champions League stage whilst still just teenage talents.

Nine players have  – somewhat incredibly – scored a Champions League goal before their 18th birthday, and we’ve decided to look back at and assess the stars to have achieved the feat.

Here are our ratings of every 17-year-old to have scored in the Champions League:

Karim Benzema – 17 years, 352 days

Benzema came through the youth system at Lyon and established himself as one of the most promising young forwards in world football, making his mark on his very first appearance in the Champions League.

The Frenchman scored his first professional goal in Europe’s premier club competition after finding the net against Rosenborg in 2005, scoring the opening goal of the game as Lyon secured a late 2-1 victory over the Norwegian outfit.

It proved to be the first of many for the forward who hit a further 11 goals in the colours of Lyon, before earning a move to Real Madrid where he has been a key part of a golden period in continental competition for Spanish giants.

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Benzema has now lifted the trophy on four occasions – including three in succession between 2016 and 2018 – and has scored in a joint-record 16 consecutive Champions League campaigns, his tally of 66 goals bettered by only four players in the history of the tournament.

Rating: 9/10

Aaron Ramsey – 17 years, 300 days

Aaron Ramsey was chased by the Premier League‘s leading clubs before moving to Arsenal as a teenager, quickly forcing his way into Arsene Wenger’s plans upon arriving at the Emirates from Cardiff.

The teenager scored his first goal for the north London side during a Champions League group stage clash at Fenerbache in 2008, his long-range effort seeing the Welshman become just the second player born in the 1990s to score in the competition.

Ramsey spent more than a decade with the Gunners and played a vital role in their best moments of a transitional era, twice scoring winning goals in FA Cup finals and making 369 appearances in all competitions.

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His impact in European competition has proven limited, though the 29-year-old will hope he can help Juventus secure a first Champions League title in 25 years this season after moving to the Italian giants in 2019.

Rating: 6/10

Breel Embolo – 17 years, 263 days

A graduate of the youth academy at Swiss side Basel, Embolo was tipped as future star after making his debut for the club as a 17-year-old in a Europa League clash against Red Bull Salzburg in March 2014.

The versatile forward played a bit-part role in the remainder of the season before taking his opportunity in fine style the following campaign, scoring 17 goals in all competitions including a first Champions League goal against Ludogorets.

Embolo spent another season in Switzerland before signing for Schalke in a big-money deal, spending three years with the Bundesliga side before a switch to divisional rivals Borussia Monchengladbach following an underwhelming spell.

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Perhaps yet to deliver on his initial potential, Embolo forms part of the Monchengladbach side that returned to the Champions League this season and have secured spirited draws with both Inter Milan and Real Madrid in their opening two fixtures.

Rating: 4/10

Martin Klein – 17 years, 241 days

Back in 2005, Martin Klein became the then second-youngest goalscorer in Champions League history after scoring a consolation goal in Sparta Prague’s defeat to Panathinaikos, though that would sadly prove to be arguably the highlight of the defender’s career.

Klein was just 17-years-old when he made his mark, but he failed to make the grade with Sparta and subsequently enjoyed a nomadic career with spells in his homeland, Turkey, Hungary, Malta and Kazakhstan.

He did earn one solitary cap for the Czech national side, however, his sole appearance coming against Malta in 2009.

Rating: 1/10

Cesc Fabregas – 17 years, 218 days

Cesc Fabregas came through the academy system at Barcelona before moving to Arsenal as a youngster in search of a clearer pathway to first-team football, becoming the youngest player in the club’s history when making his debut as a 16-year-old against Rotherham.

Fabregas swiftly made an impression and would not have to wait long for his first Champions League goal, becoming Arsenal’s youngest ever European goalscorer after also breaking both the overall and league records.

His strike against Rosenborg came aged 17 years and 218 days and he later established himself as a key figure for the Gunners, being named as club captain before a return to boyhood side Barcelona.

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Spells at Chelsea and Monaco have followed but success in the Champions League has eluded the Spaniard, Fabregas part of the Arsenal side beaten in the 2006 final, before seeing his three-year spell at Barcelona sandwiched between two European triumphs for the Catalans.

Rating: 7/10

Bojan Krkic – 17 years, 218 days

Another La Masia graduate who made an immediate impact as a teenager, Bojan was once hailed as the heir to Lionel Messi at Barcelona following a stunning start to his career.

Bojan broke Messi’s landmark as the club’s youngest ever player and scored 12 goals in all competitions during an impressive breakthrough season, including a first Champions League strike after scoring the winner in a 1-0 quarter-final success at Schalke in 2008.

The forward would twice earn a winners’ medal as Barcelona lifted the trophy under Pep Guardiola in 2009 and 2011, though he remained an unused substitute in both finals.

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His career never reached the heights expected, however, and he had spells with the likes of Roma, Ajax and Stoke City after leaving the Camp Nou, the 30-year-old currently playing his football in MLS with Montreal Impact.

Rating: 4/10

Mateo Kovacic – 17 years, 215 days

One of the leading talents to emerge from a production line of players at Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb, Mateo Kovacic was handed his opportunity in the Champions League as an inexperienced teenager.

The midfielder made his first appearance against record winners Real Madrid before scoring his first goal in the competition against Lyon, opening the scoring in an eventual 7-1 defeat for Dinamo in 2011.

Kovacic’s talent soon outgrew Croatian football and he moved on to Inter Milan and later Real Madrid, winning the competition in three consecutive seasons with the Spanish giants.

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He later joined Chelsea in search of more regular first-team opportunities and will be seeking to make an impact in the competition with Frank Lampard’s side this season.

Rating: 7/10

See also – Football’s best talent factories: Dinamo Zagreb

Peter Ofori-Quaye – 17 years, 194 days

Peter Ofori-Quaye became the first 17-year-old in history to score in the Champions League during the late nineties, holding the record as the competition’s youngest ever goalscorer for more than two decades.

The Ghanaian scored a consolation goal for Olympiakos as they were thrashed 5-1 by Rosenborg in 1997, writing his name into the history books despite a disappointing result for the Greek side.

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The forward enjoyed the best period of his career with Olympiakos and won six successive league titles in six seasons with the club before moving on to the likes of OFI Crete and AEL Limassol, also scoring twice in 18 senior caps for the Ghana national side.

Rating: 2/10

Ansu Fati – 17 years, 40 days

The shining light during a turbulent period for Barcelona of late, Ansu Fati has shattered a host of records and landmarks since making his senior debut for the Spanish side.

Fati is now the youngest goalscorer in Barcelona’s La Liga history, Champions League history and for the Spanish national side, whilst he became the youngest scorer in El Clasico after netting against Real Madrid earlier this month.

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His first Champions League goal came with a winning goal against Inter Milan in last season’s competition, just a little more than a month after his 17th birthday.

Having already scored four goals in just four league starts to sit joint-top of La Liga’s scoring charts, Fati is primed for another season of progress as the beacon of hope for Ronald Koeman’s side and if he continues at his current trajectory he may well end up with the highest rating among any player contained within this feature.

Rating: 6/10 

Read – Champions League: Ranking the best champions of the last 10 years

See also – Ranking the six players to score in the most different UCL seasons

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