What happened to the 20 youngest Champions League goalscorers?
10. Mariyan Ognyanov: 18 years, 59 days
Levski Sofia (vs Chelsea), 2006/07
Less than two months after his 18th birthday, Ognyanov scored the first ever goal for a Bulgarian club in the Champions League. A momentous event, slightly spoiled by the fact that it arrived the 89th minute and after a Didier Drogba hat-trick, rendering it a mere consolation in Levski Sofia's 3-1 loss to Chelsea.
Still, attacking midfielder Ognyanov gave it the big ’un, sliding on his knees in celebration. Unfortunately this would not be the strike that made Mariyan, as it was his only goal in the competition. He’s had a decent career in Bulgaria since, and picked up an international cap in 2013.
9. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 18 years, 44 days
Arsenal (vs Olympiakos), 2011/12
The youngest English player to score in this competition, the Ox took the record from his then-team-mate Theo Walcott when he netted just eight minutes into his Champions League debut. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s strike in a 2-1 win came only six weeks after the midfielder had moved from Southampton to Arsenal as a 17-year-old.
After seven seasons in north London, Oxlade-Chamberlain left for Liverpool in 2017 and was enjoying a superb run of form in the 2017/18 Champions League until a serious knee injury saw him stretchered off in the semi-final against Roma. It meant he missed that final, 2018 World Cup and Liverpool's stunning run in 2018/19 – but now he's back and ready to roll once more.
8. Karim Benzema: 17 years, 355 days
Lyon (vs Rosenborg), 2005/06
Only eight under-18s have scored in the Champions League – and teens probably don’t come much moodier than this French forward. Benzema scored his first professional goal in Lyon’s 2-1 victory, and his continued good form in this competition drew admiring glances from Old Trafford.
It was Real Madrid who snapped up the 21-year-old in 2009, however, and Benzema has since won the competition four times amid occasional criticism that he doesn’t always score enough for a line-leading striker. But his unselfish play, bulging medal collection and the fact that he’s netted 60 Champions League goals (putting him fourth on the all-time list) probably does enough to quieten most knockers.
7. Aaron Ramsey: 17 years, 300 days
Arsenal (vs Fenerbahce), 2008/09
The Welsh midfielder became the second 1990s-born player to score in the Champions League when his shot pinged off the post and in to seal a 5-2 win for Arsenal. The teenage prodigy had left Cardiff for London that summer and would go on to prove himself a scorer of spectacular goals for club and country.
Ramsey has clearly got it in for Turkish sides too, as he later scored a brace against Fenerbahce in a Champions League qualifier, as well as a jaw-dropping long-range half-volley against Galatasaray in 2014. He won three FA Cups with the Gunners, scoring the decisive goal in two finals, but is now at Juventus after a free transfer switch in summer 2019.
6. Breel Embolo: 17 years, 263 days
Basel (vs Ludogorets), 2014/15
The highly touted Swiss striker made his debut at 16, scored after just four minutes, then netted in the Champions League the following season. The inevitable hype train kept picking up steam as the teenager rattled home 17 goals in all competitions in 2014/15, with scouts eagerly noting the 6ft striker’s mix of physical and technical attributes.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t gone quite to plan after a €20m move to Schalke in 2016. A foul in a game against Augsburg left Embolo with a fractured ankle and ligament damage, causing him to miss almost a year of football. The striker returned, was part of Switzerland's squad at the World Cup, and scored his first Champions League goal for Schalke in 2018/19. We’ll have to wait and see whether the 22-year-old joins the ranks of hits or misses on this list, though: he joined Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer.
5. Martin Klein: 17 years, 240 days
Sparta Prague (vs Panathinaikos), 2001/02
If you needed confirmation that Klein is not among the superstar names that populate this feature, it’s the fact that if you look for his name on a popular search engine, the first ‘Martin Klein’ to turn up is an Estonian wrestler from the 1912 Olympics. Our Martin Klein is instead a Czech centre-back who scored a late Champions League goal in a 2-1 loss for Sparta Prague. Of course he is.
At least 2001/02 gave the teenage Klein a chance to play against Real Madrid in the competition, as Sparta Prague made a respectable run to the second group stage. Klein’s career afterwards took him to the Kazakhstan Premier League and the Maltese Premier League – and earned him a Czech Republic cap in 2009 – but never again to the Champions League. Now 35, and playing for third-tier Rakovnik back home.
4. Cesc Fabregas: 17 years, 218 days
Arsenal (vs Rosenborg), 2004/05
By the time he scored his first Champions League goal in a 5-1 win over Rosenborg, Fabregas had already become Arsenal’s youngest ever first-team player, youngest ever goalscorer and chucked pizza over Alex Ferguson. Some going for the La Masia product, snaffled by Arsenal at 16 and a prodigious talent who’s just about lived up to the hype.
Yet while his career has featured World Cup and double European Championship honours for Spain, a Liga title after his return to Barcelona in 2011 and two Premier League titles with Chelsea, Fabregas has never actually won this competition.
The closest he came was with Arsenal in 2006, when the then-19-year-old started for the side which lost 2-1 to Barcelona in Paris. At 32 years old and now with an ailing Monaco side, Fabregas has seemingly run out of time to win the Champions League – a rare omission on his otherwise glittering CV.
3. Bojan Krkic: 17 years, 217 days
Barcelona (vs Schalke), 2007/08
Bojan began with a bang. The first player born in the 1990s to score in the Champions League did it not in a group-stage thrashing, but by netting the only goal, away, in a quarter-final first leg. It was part of a special debut season for the artful 5ft 7in attacker who broke Lionel Messi’s record for the youngest Barcelona player and scored 12 goals in all competitions.
He was immediately touted for greatness; the next Masia legend. Unfortunately the ‘new Messi’ tag proved a millstone. Bojan won this competition in 2009 and 2011, but was an unused substitute in both finals. After the second of those victories, Bojan left for Roma, and later played for Milan, Ajax and then Stoke. He has shown glimpses of his gifts, but sustained form has been a problem.
In May 2018, the now-29-year-old opened up on how bouts of anxiety hindered his career, and even stopped him going to Euro 2008 with Spain. Bojan has had several highs, even since leaving Barcelona, such as an Eredivisie title in 2014. Yet when it comes to not living up to those great expectations, as the man himself says: “Well, yes, if you compare me with Messi… but what career did you expect?”
2. Mateo Kovacic: 17 years, 215 days
Dinamo Zagreb (vs Lyon), 2011/12
Nothing like being thrown in the at the deep end. Having helped his side qualify for the group stage, Croatian midfielder Kovacic made his Champions League debut four months after his 17th birthday, against Real Madrid. That match ended in a narrow 1-0 defeat for Zagreb, but Kovacic would later achieve a moment of personal glory by putting his side 1-0 up against Lyon.
Clearly offended by seeing a player still several months below drinking age score past them, Lyon responded by winning that game 7-1. However, Kovacic himself has progressed well since, becoming Zagreb’s youngest ever captain, moving to Inter Milan in 2013, then to Real Madrid in 2015.
Kovacic played over a hundred games for Real in three seasons, yet this inventive, versatile midfielder never quite cracked Madrid’s imposing first XI. After making a loan move to Chelsea in summer 2018, the 25-year-old made it permanent a year later.
1. Peter Ofori-Quaye: 17 years, 194 days
Olympiakos (vs Rosenborg), 1997/98
Of course it is! The youngest ever scorer of a Champions League goal, Ghanaian striker Ofori-Quaye made himself a legend – or at least a handy piece of pub quiz trivia – by coming off the bench to produce a neat turn and finish for Olympiakos. The fact that it was a consolation in a 5-1 defeat to Rosenborg does arguably steal some of its lustre.
Ofori-Quaye was a hot prospect at the time. After arriving in Greece from Ghana, the striker was scoring goals for Kalamata at the scarcely credible age of 15. Champions Olympiakos signed him in 1997 and he spent six years there, scored three Champions League goals and played for Ghana (above) at the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations.
However, Ofori-Quaye never really lived up to his early promise and Olympiakos let the striker go in 2003. Stints at Liberty Professionals, OFI Crete, AEL Limassol and Accra Hearts of Oak (among others) followed. Now 39, Ofori-Quaye last played for a club in 2012, so his days of Champions League heroics  are probably in the past. But we’ll always have Norway, Peter.
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