Lamine Yamal: The Rise Of Barcelona's Next Gem

Discover the rise of Lamine Yamal, the exciting young talent emerging in Barcelona's football scene. Learn more about his journey and potential impact on the sport.

Daniel A.
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Lamine Yamal: The Rise Of Barcelona's Next Gem

Spanish professional football player Lamamine Yamal Nasraoui Ebana (born July 13, 2007) is a right winger for Barcelona in La Liga and the Spanish national team.

Born to an Equatorial Guinean Fang mother and a Moroccan father in Esplugues de Llobregat, Barcelona, Catalonia, Lamine Yamal grew up in Granollers and Mataró. On page 4, Yamal joins F.C. Barcelona's junior academy after his family relocates to Barcelona when he is seven.

'Flashes of Messi'

Yamal would not play for the Barca first squad again in Catalunya until August 8, 2023; even then, he did so during a disastrous period for the club.

Xavi's side had struggled through the first half of the Joan Gamper Trophy pre-season match against Tottenham at the Olympic Stadium. Conversely, Ange Postecoglu, who was still getting used to life without Harry Kane early in his Spurs career, had his club operating at peak efficiency. One hour later, the guests were up 2-1. A more clinical group would have earned four.

Everything changed when Xavi unleashed his youthful ace on the right flank after seventy-five minutes. Yamal was a short guy. Sergio Reguilon whirled past him, slicing into space and finding the type of minute passing angles required to break through a defense that had not wavered. He instigated the sequences that resulted in both the third and fourth Barca goals after helping to equalize by supplying Ferran Torres with an easy finish. The final score was made outstanding by a brave 16-year-old.

All of this gave rise to several unfavorable analogies. Cules saw well that 18 years before, in the same glitzy friendly, a certain Lionel Messi had put up a similarly spectacular performance to defeat Juventus.

Dream Spain debut

An August-end call-up for Spain seemed imminent by then. Yamal may have started only three games and played just 239 minutes of La Liga football, but La Roja manager Luis de la Fuente was keen to include him in the national squad. "He seems to have had a divine wand stroke him. He is different, De la Fuente said at a news conference after the announcement of his team for the September 2023 international break.

Many raised their worries about whether Yamal needed to be included at such a young age, particularly considering the injury troubles that threatened to damage the careers of Ansu Fati and Pedri after they had become vital figures for club and nation at a similarly young age. Those same critics thus exhaled with relief when he was placed on the bench for Spain's Euro 2024 qualifying match against Georgia.

That wouldn't hold, however. Yamal was brought to become the youngest debutant in Spain's national team history after Dani Olmo sustained an injury late in the first half. He produced two opportunities and scored a remarkable goal in 46 minutes, smashing Gavi's record for the youngest goal scorer in Spain's history with a beautiful curler into the top corner to cap off his debut.

Keeping calm

Things have only got better since then. Although Xavi has handled Yamal's minutes wisely, the Blaugrana are superior when the 16-year-old is on the field. He became the youngest-ever scorer in La Liga when he scored his first goal against Granada early in October. On January 11, he came off the bench to score the game-winning goal against Osasuna.

Then, on February 11, he had his first memorable La Liga performance. Barca seemed to be headed for a humiliating home loss against a relegation-zone club after playing Granada, who were beyond awful. Yamal completely turned the tide, scoring twice and setting up other opportunities to help earn a thrilling draw.

Early in March, he scored a stunning 72nd-minute winner against Mallorca, which sparked even more Messi parallels. In the games that followed, he has consistently been Barca's most obvious offensive threat—a player who neither defenders nor rival coaches seem to be able to figure out. When it comes to the crunch, Barcelona needs Yamal. Xavi has benched the 16-year-old for two of Barca's previous four games, which is undoubtedly a wise decision since the minutes have added up, and their championship prospects are all but gone.

The sky is the limit.

There are still issues, however. Watch Yamal; you will see a physically exhausted player after each game. This combines his work rate and the pressure his youthful legs are under. He has played more than 2,000 minutes for club and nation this season; since Spain aspires to win the Euros, he will play even more.

Not that nobody can manage to lessen the expectations that are all around him. In a master lesson in an emotional breakdown, De la Fuente compared Yamal in a seven-second soundbite to Messi and Diego Maradona. Nothing is hidden any longer.

That could be a positive thing as well. Barcelona needs an X-factor to lead them into a new era after battling through this season. Spain, meanwhile, is looking for its next golden child, a sophisticated attacker who can provide a disciplined, possession-based team with a razor-sharp edge. With its quick turns, deft turns, and Adidas sponsorships, Yamal is to be relished.

Those worries over injury risk and load management will never go away, and if he keeps playing so much, they could well come true. However, this is a generational talent making his way through the football world and wreaking havoc on defenders on the continent and home front.

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