As Barcelona prepare for their return to work against Espanyol on the 30th of December, the squad played an intra-squad friendly in order to get back into the rhythm of competition. With Ousmane Dembele and Jules Kounde on holiday following their World Cup exertions, Xavi Hernandez has been working with several youngsters too.
None more promising than 15-year-old Lamine Yamal. First training with Barcelona’s senior side at the beginning of September, Yamal is regarded by many to be the brightest talent currently at the famed La Masia academy.
As per Diario AS, the Blaugrana are negotiating his first professional contract with agent Ivan de la Pena and Xavi may consider calling him up for their Copa del Rey tie against Intercity on the 4th of January.
Born in Mataro, where Andres Iniesta met his partner Ana Ortiz and around 30km from Barcelona, Yamal has grown up with the Blaugrana. Although he comes from a Moroccan father and an Equatorial Guinean mother, Yamal has not just moved through the ranks at Barcelona, but also with Spain.
Yamal is currently playing four years ahead of his age group with both, turning out for the Juvenil A side for Barcelona. This season he has played five times in the UEFA Youth League. With Spain, he has moved through 4 different age groups in just 13 months, making his under-19 debut in October.
Given he is left-footed, diminutive and is comfortable taking on the defender, inevitably there have been comparisons with Lionel Messi.
Often described as an inside forward, Yamal is comfortable operating across the front line. It is a feature of La Masia that players tend to be moved around in the team to ensure they are comfortable playing in different positions. To shoehorn him into a traditional role, Yamal would likely be played on the right side of an attacking three to ensure he is at his most comfortable. In the UEL, he has been used in all three of those positions.
His mastery of the ball, the quick twitch reactions and composed dribbling style make him stand out. At his best, Yamal is the creative hub of the team. Receiving the ball, he will often look for a slaloming run if the space opens up. Whenever he has the defender on the back foot, he is an adept finisher or possesses an excellent weight of pass.
While it is early days, he profiles as an all-round forward. Quick acceleration and strong balance make him hard to stop. Maybe his only noticeable drawbacks are this stage are his ability in the air and he is not as at ease using his right foot.
Time and increased level will no doubt expose any more that he has, but Yamal’s rise is full of promise. Provided Barcelona manage his development well, which is no given, then they could have another young star on their hands.