Ronaldo, Messi, Mbappe? Who is Europe’s most prolific young goalscorer?

Kylian Mbappe has hit 30 league goals this term, but how do his stats compare to former young stars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo?

Kylian Mbappe’s hat-trick in Paris Saint-Germain’s title-clinching win over Monaco on Sunday took his tally of league goals for the season to 30.

It has been a stellar campaign for the 20-year-old on the back of World Cup glory with France and no player under 21 has managed such a single-season scoring haul in European football since Brazil great Ronaldo 24 years ago.

But, how do Mbappe’s numbers compare to those of other prestigious talents during their formative years, such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Using Opta data, we take a look at the players with the highest-scoring seasons before they turned 21.



The Premier League has seen some incredible talents emerge from its various clubs over the years, as well as bringing in some of the finest talent from abroad.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored 14 goals in the competition before his 21st birthday, while Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney netted 44 times.

Other standout performers at a young age include Romelu Lukaku, Nicolas Anelka and Chris Sutton.

But it is two former Liverpool stars who amassed the most goals before hitting 21. Michael Owen scored 55 times before December 14, 2000, with Robbie Fowler netting 64 from 1993 to 1996.

Fowler’s highest tally came in 1995-96, when he struck 28 times as Liverpool finished third, although the last of those goals came after his 21st birthday.



Kylian Mbappe is going from strength to strength and already has 58 top-flight goals to his name.

PSG’s striking sensation has been instrumental for Thomas Tuchel’s side this term and leads the way in Ligue 1 when it comes to goals scored in a single season while aged under 21.

France great Michel Platini scored 22 goals for Nancy in the 1975-76 campaign, while Djibril Cisse netted the same amount in 2001-02 for Auxerre.

Karim Benzema, meanwhile, enjoyed a 20-goal season at Lyon in 2007-08.



It is not often that Lionel Messi finds himself down a pecking order, but in this case his record of 31 league goals before the age of 21 sees him down the list of LaLiga’s most prolific young scorers.

Messi, of course, did not play as an outright striker during his breakthrough seasons at Camp Nou, with his highest goalscoring season coming in 2006-07, when he registered 14.

Atletico Madrid duo Fernando Torres and Sergio Aguero were both reliable goalscorers, with both players scoring 19 times in their best seasons.

But Atleti also had to watch a one-time youth player flourish with city rivals Real Madrid. Raul scored 59 times before turning 21, including a haul of 21 goals from 42 appearances in 1996-97.



Klaus Fischer, Horst Koppel and Dieter Muller all impressed at a young age in the Bundesliga, though their goals came during the 1960s and 1970s.

Since then, youngsters have struggled to score on a consistent basis in Germany’s top flight, with RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner managing 14 goals prior to turning 21 during the 2016-17 season.

In Serie A, Mauro Icardi scored 10 goals for Sampdoria in 2012-13 before moving to Inter, where he netted nine times in his maiden season at the club.



The last player under 21 to score 30 league goals in a season before Mbappe was Ronaldo in 1994-95, with O Fenomeno hitting the milestone aged just 18.

While Ronaldo excelled at PSV, it was Ajax that produced the Eredivisie’s finest young scorer – Johan Cruyff scoring 33 times for Ajax during the 1966-67 campaign.

And Ajax also produced three more players on this list; Wim Kieft (33), Marco van Basten (27) and Patrick Kluivert, who scored 18 league goals in 1994-95, as well as helping the Amsterdam club claim Champions League glory.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic made the move from Malmo to Ajax aged 19, but netted just six goals in his debut season in the Netherlands.