By 90Min
July 07, 2019

Legends come in all shapes and sizes, and they come to our attention in many different ways.

Sometimes, an academy product has to spend years earning the respect and trust of the coaching staff, supporters and teammates, gradually increasing their profile and reputation in the game. However, there are also those that enjoy a meteoric rise straight to the top.

In the space of 90 minutes, a youngster can go from complete anonymity to being the pride of his club, or even shoot to international stardom. 15-year-old tennis sensation Coco Gauff has done precisely that at Wimbledon this summer, knocking out five-time champion Venus Williams to make her's the name on everybody's lips.

In homage to the teenager and all the overnight sensations out there, here's a look at eight footballers who shot straight to fame.

Sir Bobby Charlton

Manchester United stalwart Sir Bobby Charlton entered the setup at Old Trafford aged 15, making a name for himself within the training ground walls as he showed strong goalscoring form in the youth teams.

However, few outside of the club knew who the forward was until a pitch-perfect debut in October 1956, when he hit a brace against - fittingly - Charlton Athletic. Manager Matt Busby evidently liked what he saw and fast-tracked the starlet into the senior side.

Charlton would go on to net 10 more times in another 13 appearances that year to establish himself in the squad, the England international giving glimpses of the talent that would take him to both Ballon d'Or and World Cup glory.

Robbie Fowler

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An early autumn League Cup tie between Liverpool and Fulham in 1993 hardly looked like a headline-maker, with the Reds expected to make their way into the next round at a canter.

They did progress - winning 8-1 over the course of two legs - but the result was insignificant compared to the gem the club had unearthed in the process. Debutant Robbie Fowler would have been chuffed to collect his first senior goal in the first match-up, though the return fixture was nothing short of a fairytale.

The man who would later be dubbed 'God' by the Anfield faithful scored five times in front of a stunned home crowd to write his name into the history books, Fowler nabbing a hat-trick shortly afterwards in a league game against Southampton.

Gianluigi Buffon

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As hard as it is to believe, Gianluigi Buffon was not always a ruggedly-handsome icon of goalkeeping. No, he was once a fresh-faced adolescent with big dreams and a mountain to climb in order to achieve them.

The Italian's stellar career got underway at the tender age of 17 with an incredible performance for Parma as he made his first appearance in Serie A versus - of all teams - the illustrious Milan of yesteryear.

Even at the peak of their powers, the Rossoneri could not find a way past an inspired Buffon between the Parma sticks, who almost single-handedly earned his side a 0-0 draw against the eventual champions.

Wayne Rooney

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Some goals are unforgettable. Wayne Rooney's howitzer beyond the sprawling David Seaman in 2002 is one of those.

The context: Arsenal were unbeaten in 30 matches going into this clash with Everton, the soon-to-be hero was five days away from turning 17 and the scores were level at one apiece as the clock ticked into the red.

Up steps Rooney, who unleashes a long-range thunderbolt into the top corner to seal a 2-1 triumph for the Toffees and make himself the Premier League's youngest ever scorer at the time.

Freddy Adu

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$700,000 - that's the value of the contract Freddy Adu signed with sportswear giants Nike when he was still just 14 years-of-age. That same season, he agreed to join DC United to become the youngest full-time athlete in the US, as well as one of the most exciting prospects in the game.

For several years the records kept tumbling and then... well, nothing. Adu's career petered out after he had once been held up as the future of football, the one to lead the United States to a seat amongst the world's best.

Despite plying his trade across the globe for some less-than-glamorous clubs, his name still rings a bell for supporters of a certain age, such was his status in the early 2000s.

Cristiano Ronaldo


Cristiano Ronaldo was hardly a no one back in 2003, but his talents were certainly less famous than they are now. When still coming through the ranks at Sporting Lisbon, the forward was handed an opportunity to play in a friendly with Manchester United.

He terrorised Sir Alex Ferguson's recruits all game, his mercurial display leading the Scotsman to sign up this thrilling youngster with immediate effect. 

His devastating skills on the wing caught the attention of football lovers everywhere, who had no choice but to marvel and wonder at what the future held for Ronaldo and his lightning-fast feet...

Danny Rose

If Danny Rose had been allowed to write the script for his Tottenham Hotspur league debut, he may have included a 30-yard screamer, and would almost definitely have wanted an important, hard-fought victory with Arsenal as the opponents.

He got all three, the left-back rifling in a gravity-defying volley from far out to help Spurs record just their second win over the Gunners in the 21st-century. You can imagine what the back pages were saying the following day.

Marcus Rashford

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European debut - two goals. Premier League debut - two goals and an assist. Manchester derby debut - scores the winner. Marcus Rashford began his United career like a house on fire, instantly being placed atop the Old Trafford throne.

In late February 2016, the striker was just another Red Devils youngster looking for a path into the first-team. Less than a month later, he was the toast of the Stretford End and an outsider  for Euro 2016 selection.

Remarkably, he made the cut for the championships in France that summer (the less said about what happened there, the better), whilst he has gone on to become a shining light in a dark period for his beloved club.

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