After RSC Anderlecht teen Youri Tielemans became the third youngest player ever in the UEFA Champions League, UEFA.com salutes its most precocious talents.
RSC Anderlecht's Youri Tielemans became the third youngest player to grace the UEFA Champions League when he started against Olympiacos FC on Wednesday. UEFA.com looks at the competition's most precocious talents over the past 22 seasons.
Céléstine Babayaro: 16 years and 87 days
The Nigerian left-back became the youngest player to grace the UEFA Champions League as he started for Anderlecht in a 1-1 draw against FC Steaua Bucureşti in the 1994/95 group stage. It took him 37 minutes to claim a less auspicious place in the competition's record books as the youngest player to receive a red card. Babayaro joined Chelsea FC in 1997, winning the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and FA Cup at Stamford Bridge. Having hung up his boots, the 35-year-old is now working with young players in Nigeria, explaining: "I give youthful players advice and recommend those who are talented."
Alen Halilović: 16 years and 128 days
GNK Dinamo Zagreb were well on their way to a 2-0 home defeat by Paris Saint-Germain FC when the waif-like Halilović trotted on for the last five minutes of added time last October. Billed as the most exciting Croatian talent since Luka Modrić, the son of former Dinamo player Sead Halilović had become the youngest scorer in Prva Liga history a fortnight earlier and made his senior international debut in June, eight days before his 17th birthday. Still being monitored by top clubs, the attacking midfielder insists his ambitions are modest: "The reason I started was because I wanted to be like my dad: to play for Dinamo Zagreb."
Youri Tielemans: 16 years and 148 days
Tielemans first came on to Anderlecht's radar as a five-year-old, and the defensive midfielder has made giant leaps since the summer, playing his first senior league game in July and his first Belgium Under-21 match in August before making his UEFA Champions League debut in October. Compared by some to Axel Witsel, he insists his colleagues at Anderlecht are helping to keep him grounded despite interest from abroad, saying: "Sometimes the older players like Silvio Proto or Olivier Deschacht say to me 'hey, you were only born yesterday', but it is just banter. A few years ago I just watched those guys on TV – now I am one of them. Amazing!"
Charis Mavrias, 16 years and 242 days
Nikos Nioplias turned to Mavrias with 12 minutes of Panathinaikos FC's 2010/11 group stage meeting with FC Rubin Kazan remaining as he sought a winner. The midfielder did not make a dream debut, but found it an inspiring occasion, saying: "It was always my dream to play in such a competition where world-class players are involved. I am very glad that I got to do it and I hope to have the chance to play in other big tournaments." He subsequently became the club's youngest ever European scorer and their youngest scorer in a derby game against Olympiacos FC before moving to Sunderland AFC in the summer of 2013, aged 19.
Bryan Cristante, 16 years and 279 days
Already assured of second spot in their group in December 2011, AC Milan were 2-0 up at FC Viktoria Plzeň when Cristante entered the fray nine minutes from time but the hosts stormed back to earn a point. An inauspicious start, but there is more to come from the midfielder, whose 'hybrid' name may be down to the fact that his father is Canadian. Cristante signed a five-year contract the day after he turned 18 in March 2013, but said: "The road is still long. When I'm a regular member of the AC Milan first team, then I can say that I've made it." He has been compared with shaggy-maned Argentinian Fernando Redondo, but responded: "I do not have hair like him."
Peter Ofori-Quaye, 17 years and 195 days
Nine minutes after his introduction, the Ghanaian forward struck Olympiacos FC's consolation in a 5-1 defeat by Rosenborg BK in the 1997/98 group stage. His goals in his first seasons in Piraeus drew plenty of international attention, and he was eager to move to the Premier League, saying: "The rate of club soccer development is high in England, that's why I want to continue my club career there." He would score a memorable six-minute hat-trick against Ethnikos Asteras FC in March 2002, but a knee injury was to wreck his progress, though he tried to relaunch his career in Israel and Cyprus. Now 33, he is back in Ghana.