Scores are on the line; transfer funds are plentiful, and management job security is at an all-time low. All of these factors reduce the chances of a young player appearing for an English Premier League club.
However, some players progressing through the academy ranks are simply too excellent to pass up — their talent is much beyond what you’d expect in their young years. And, as is often the case with football fans, it’s the attack-minded ones who draw the most attention when they first appear.
There’s nothing quite like an unknown quantity breaking into the first squad and putting the puck in the back of the net early in their career.
- 1 Top 10 youngest goalscorers in Premier League history
- 1.1 10. Mikael Forssell: 17 years and 342 days
- 1.2 9. Raheem Sterling: 17 years and 317 days
- 1.3 8. Daniel Jebbison: 17 years and 309 days
- 1.4 7. Federico Macheda: 17 years and 226 days
- 1.5 6. Andy Turner: 17 years and 166 days
- 1.6 5. Michael Owen: 17 years and 144 days
- 1.7 4. Cesc Fabregas: 17 years and 114 days
- 1.8 3. Wayne Rooney: 16 years and 360 days
- 1.9 2. James Milner: 16 years and 356 days
- 1.10 1. James Vaughan: 16 years and 270 days
Top 10 youngest goalscorers in Premier League history
10. Mikael Forssell: 17 years and 342 days
Chelsea signed the former Finland international on a free transfer from HJK Helsinki when he was 17 years old in the summer of 1998. Forssell scored in the 4-2 FA Cup triumph over Oxford United at Stamford Bridge in only his second first-team game.
Three weeks later, in a 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest, the striker scored his first Premier League goal. However, a fantastic start to life with the Blues was short-lived. He spent much of his six-year stint on loan to Crystal Palace, Birmingham City, and in Germany due to the entrance of veteran players such as Chris Sutton, Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink, and Eidur Gudjohnsen.
In 2005, Finland’s second-highest all-time scorer made the permanent switch to Birmingham. Before retiring in 2017, Forssell had a brief stint at Leeds United in the 2011-12 season — a term that many Leeds supporters will forget, given he was only deployed in the Championship.
Forssell is now pursuing a coaching career after retiring from the game. He works in the youth system of HJK Helsinki, the club where he began his football career.
9. Raheem Sterling: 17 years and 317 days
It was evident from the start that Liverpool’s second-youngest debutant would be a star. In a 1-0 win over Reading at Anfield in October 2012, he scored his first Premier League goal.
Brendan Rodgers’ top players included the England international. Most people remember the Reds’ title-winning season of 2013-14 because of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge’s lethal strike combo, but Sterling played a key role in a team that scored the most goals by a Premier League runner-up (101).
Sterling keeps improving under Pep Guardiola’s leadership at Manchester City. However, after the arrival of his compatriot Jack Grealish, he’s been mostly on the bench for City this season.
8. Daniel Jebbison: 17 years and 309 days
Jebbison is one of the names on this list that isn’t immediately recognizable. Last season, the forward scored for Sheffield United at Goodison Park, one of the few bright spots in the club’s relegation battle.
However, since signing a new contract with the Blades in May, the 18-year-old has been largely ignored. He was loaned out to Burton Albion earlier this season and has struggled to establish himself as a starter under Paul Heckingbottom since his return in January.
7. Federico Macheda: 17 years and 226 days
Macheda is now a 30-year-old squad player for Panathinaikos in Greece. Since his first Premier League goal in April 2009, his career has gone downward, but when you examine the background, it was never going to get any better for the forward.
United, who were storming the Stretford End, needed a goal to keep their title hopes alive in a title duel with Liverpool. Macheda scored the game-winning goal against Aston Villa in the final stages of his debut. That season, Sir Alex Ferguson’s team won the Premier League.
6. Andy Turner: 17 years and 166 days
Turner scored in Tottenham’s 2-1 win over Everton in the Premier League’s inaugural season in September 1992. Turner, a Spurs academy graduate, played 21 times for the team that season before succumbing to ailments.
He spent the majority of his time at the north London club on loan before concluding his career in non-league. Turner, 46, is now the Head Coach of Cefn Druids, a semi-professional Welsh team.
5. Michael Owen: 17 years and 144 days
On his debut for Roy Evans’ Liverpool side against Wimbledon in 1996, the one-time Ballon d’Or winner scored after only 15 minutes from the bench.
After periods with Real Madrid and Manchester United, one of the best teenage footballers of all time went on to score 157 more goals for Merseyside. Owen scored 40 goals for England as well.
He’s one of the best offensive forwards the country has ever produced. If only he hadn’t been plagued by injuries that sapped his once hypnotic abilities. Owen is now a regular pundit on BT Sport, covering Champions League matches. Only two non-attacking players appear on this prestigious list, including the former Spain international.
4. Cesc Fabregas: 17 years and 114 days
Only two non-attacking players appear on this illustrious list, including the former Spain international. Fabregas scored his first Arsenal goal in a 3-0 win over Blackburn Rovers in 2004 while commanding the midfield for Arsene Wenger’s legendary Arsenal side. He’s won every trophy imaginable while playing for Arsenal, Chelsea, and Barcelona, his boyhood club.
3. Wayne Rooney: 16 years and 360 days
Rooney’s amazing winner for Everton over Arsenal in 2002 was regarded by former Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman as a “fantastic piece of talent.” Seaman wasn’t often defeated from long range during his career – Ronaldinho’s World Cup goal aside – but Rooney’s first Premier League goal was one of a string of brilliant strikes he scored in England’s top flight.
England’s all-time leading scorer is one of the best players in Premier League history, having ripped the league apart during his trophy-laden years at Old Trafford. Rooney is now working as a manager, entrusted with maintaining Derby County in the Championship despite their struggles. If he accomplishes what many consider to be an impossible task, it will go down as possibly his biggest football achievement.
2. James Milner: 16 years and 356 days
On Boxing Day, 2002, Milner scored in Leeds’ 2-1 victory against Sunderland. After spells with Aston Villa and Man City, the veteran midfielder is approaching 600 Premier League appearances and is still an essential squad member of Jurgen Klopp’s all-conquering Liverpool side 20 years later. The aging dog, at 36, has a lot of life left in him.
1. James Vaughan: 16 years and 270 days
Vaughan made his Premier League debut for Everton against Crystal Palace in 2005, and was dubbed “the next Rooney.” Unfortunately, the striker’s career path differed from that of England’s great, with the striker spending the majority of his time outside of the Premier League. He retired from Tranmere Rovers last season and is currently the club’s Sporting Director.