From his sun-kissed origins in Spain, where Moroccan and Equatorial Guinean roots were woven together, 16-year-old Lamine Yamal has already reminded not only Spain but all of Europe and beyond of La Masia’s reputation as one of the world’s best talent factories. He pirouetted through Barcelona’s youth ranks with grace as glamorous as his feints, becoming their youngest debutant ever at 15, a feat he has proven with his performances. This teenage whirlwind, officially with the B team but already showing his worth with the first team under Barça’s departing manager Xavi, Yamal’s story is just beginning.
Yamal both within and beyond the context of his age, is an exceptional 1v1 threat. His ability to maneuver into tight spaces with ease is a key part of his approach when making diagonal carries from out-wide. His dribbling prowess isn’t only eye catching but efficient and purposeful, his dribbles more often than not lead to direct attacking threat. He’s also a two-footed dribbler and as such makes his dribbling angles all the more unpredictable for any marker to decipher.
His close control shows a player worthy of being a La Masía product. Lamine’s close control is so exquisite that the ball at his feet looks magnetic. This facilitates his ability to receive on the half-turn with increased technical security, thus making him not only a capable carrier but receiver too.
However, Yamal isn’t necessarily a speedster, he has great understanding of acceleration, Instinctively knowing when to kick into gear to get outside of a marker, his ability to decelerate in a matter of moments makes him even trickier for even quicker markers, being that he can bait defenders to overcommit into challenges.
Although he’s yet to set La Liga ablaze with goals, Yamal is an excellent ball striker, adept at creating quick separations for powerful shots in a matter of moments, being able to create shooting angles with a left foot ability reminiscent of a certain former Barca prodigy, and it’ll only be a matter of time before more goals kick in as well. Positionally, Yamal thrives as a diagonal forward, favoring the opposite flank of his preferred foot. This accentuates his primary strength—delivering dangerous balls into the box from the wide areas.
Out of possession, Yamal had shown to be an active presser unafraid of engaging in duels when out of possession, backed up by his defensive stats.
Physically the foundations are also very promising, Lamal Yamal is able to confidently engage in duels that defy his age, his 5’11 frame perhaps plays a role in his physical adaptation at senior level. Possessing an ideal height, being that he’s not too tall to compromise his coordination crucial for his attacking actions, yet allowing enough room for muscular maturation and strength and with time the occasional aerial outlet.
There seems to be a healthy foundation for a top inside forward or wide striker based on his current trajectory, stylistically he’s quite similar to the likes of Neymar and Mohamed Salah, or perhaps more powerful inside forwards like Rafael Leao, players who possess the ability to carry diagonal threat through their dribbling ability from out to in. His pie chart already suggests that statistically he’s operating at such a promising level and it’ll most likely be an upward trajectory.
Barcelona seem to be privileged with prodigy after prodigy, the blessing of an academy that keeps a healthy line of talent production, Lamal Yamal is the latest example of such and could perhaps lead the club to glorious moments on a consistent basis someday, however history has already taught the football world and especially Barça that too much too soon could be detrimental to a young player, especially with regard to their bodies.
After Gavi, Ansu Fati and Alejandro Balde, the latest La Masia wonderkid to break into the Barcelona first team is Lamine Yamal, and his dazzling and dizzying displays can rightfully make one forget that he only turned 16 in July, but he really is just a teenager and should be eased into first team football as subtly as possible considering his already incredible level. Expectations must also be fairly set, for now all supporters of football or the Blaugranas should let Yamal grow without inhibiting him with mental pressures, his life has already changed and already that might be hard enough for the kid, and so patience is key. Personally it is a privilege to write on one of the most promising players in the world right now, but that’s all there is for now, promise.
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / NurPhoto