Revealed! The 20 youngest Champions League goalscorers – and what happened to them
20. Lionel Messi: 18 years, 132 days
Barcelona (vs Panathinaikos), 2005/06
OK, so Lionel Messi is more accustomed to being around the top of most goalscoring lists, but unfortunately the Flea was an ancient 18 years and 132 days old when he recorded his first Champions League strike.
Leo stuck in his false teeth and nabbed an all-important third goal in Barcelona’s 5-0 group-stage win over Panathinaikos in 2005, meaning the Argentine genius only just sneaks into this list in 20th place. The fact that he went on to win this trophy four times with Barça, scoring another 104 Champions League goals (and counting) and becoming arguably the greatest player who ever lived probably means he’ll get over it.
19. Raul: 18 years, 113 days
Real Madrid (vs Ferencvaros), 1995/96
In 1995, Raul scored the first of his 71 goals in this competition with a close-range header after Hungarian side Ferencvaros chose not to bother marking the weedy Spanish teenager. Raul enjoyed it so much he made it 2-0 a minute later, before rounding off a 6-1 win with his hat-trick goal.
The Bernabeu had a new hero. But while Raul would miss out on Europe next season after Real finished sixth (!) in La Liga, he went on to lift the trophy three times, scoring in two finals. To this day, he holds the record as the youngest ever player to score a Champions League hat-trick.
18. Per Ciljan Skjelbred: 18 years, 90 days
Rosenborg (vs Olympiakos), 2005/06
Skjelbred’s dream introduction to European football quickly turned into a nightmare. The Norwegian playmaker scored on his Champions League debut, netting in Rosenborg’s 3-1 victory. His dinked finish came against grey-haired goalie Antonios Nikopolidis, giving it a lad-versus-dad quality.
Unfortunately the next group match against Olympiakos featured Skjelbred’s lower leg being broken in two places after a brutal tackle from Ieroklis Stoltidis. He returned in 2006 and has had a decent career since – the 31-year-old turns out for Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga – but is yet to add to his sole Champions League goal.
17. Patrick Kluivert: 18 years, 89 days
Ajax (vs AEK Athens), 1994/95
The Dutch striker’s first goal in this competition – the winner in a 2-1 victory – is totally overshadowed by his second. Seven months later, Kluivert came off the bench for Louis van Gaal’s Ajax to score the only goal in the final against a Milan side featuring Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta in defence.
Milan signed the hot prospect two years later, yet Kluivert failed to adapt and moved to Barcelona, where he spent six good seasons. The striker also went on to score 40 goals for the Netherlands, becoming their all-time top scorer until Robin van Persie passed his total in 2013.
Still the youngest player ever to score in a Champions League final, Kluivert left big shoes to fill for his son, Justin, who hit the net on his Champions League debut for Roma this season at the crumbly old age of 19.
16. Mario Balotelli: 18 years, 85 days
Inter (vs Anorthosis), 2008/09
Of all the games from Inter’s Treble-winning season that Jose Mourinho watches at 3am, alone in The Lowry, we’re going to assume that the 3-3 draw with Anorthosis probably isn’t top of the list. Yet that group game saw the mercurial Balotelli get off the mark in Europe.
Mourinho and Super Mario was never an ideal match, and while Balotelli showed flashes of brilliance after leaving Inter to play for his old boss Roberto Mancini at Manchester City, his star has gradually fallen. He now finds the net nicely at Nice, but the 28-year-old looks unlikely to fulfill the potential that earned him the Golden Boy Award in 2010.
15. Nigel de Jong: 18 years 80 days
Ajax (vs Arsenal), 2002/03
Huh? It’s rather surprising to see ‘The Lawnmower’ on a list of young goalscorers, as we hardly remember him scoring at all. The Dutch defensive midfielder netted his first senior goal for Ajax at Highbury, slipping by Ashley Cole to finish handsomely and secure a 1-1 draw.
De Jong landed on his backside after hitting the net, yet he’d make a career of putting opponents on theirs. The tough-tackling holding man went on to leave his mark at Hamburg, Manchester City, Milan – as well as on Xabi Alonso’s chest in the 2010 World Cup Final. De Jong is still playing, for Al Ahli in Qatar, at the age of 33.