The 16-year-old wonderkid, bathed by Lionel Messi as a baby, who stunned the Euros and is waiting for England: Lamine Yamal is Spain’s star from a deprived area who does his homework in camp and has magic in his boots

The 16-year-old wonderkid, bathed by Lionel Messi as a baby, who stunned the Euros and is waiting for England: Lamine Yamal is Spain’s star from a deprived area who does his homework in camp and has magic in his boots

Doing your final school exams is stressful enough without almost 50 million people pinning their footballing hopes on you. Lamine Yamal knows no different. 

Welcome to the world of Spain’s 16-year-old boy king, balancer-in-chief of school commitments and sporting stardom. 

On Tuesday night Yamal scored a stunner against France to help send Spain through to the Euro 2024 final, where they could face England, less than two weeks after discovering his school grades. 

Scoring a late winner in PE is the height of many people’s footballing career. For Yamal, hailed by his manager as a ‘genius’ and once washed as a baby by Lionel Messi, there are bigger fish to fry. 

Just ask Barcelona – so determined are they to keep hold of Yamal that they have a clause in his contract demanding £868million from anybody who wants to buy him. So, who is Yamal, a potential successor to Messi still wearing braces?

Lamine Yamal (left, pictured with father Mounir) is taking Euro 2024 by storm at 16 – and he could face England in the final

The Barcelona star curled in a stunning strike to fell France and lead Spain to the grand stage

The Barcelona star curled in a stunning strike to fell France and lead Spain to the grand stage

He has had to do homework and complete his school exams while at the Euros with Spain

He has had to do homework and complete his school exams while at the Euros with Spain

Yamal was washed by Lionel Messi as a baby in 2007 in a Barcelona calendar photoshoot

Yamal was washed by Lionel Messi as a baby in 2007 in a Barcelona calendar photoshoot

To understand Spain’s breakout star, it’s worth taking a close look at his family. 

Yamal was born in Barcelona in 2007 to a Moroccan father, Mounir, and his mother Sheila from Equatorial Guinea. 

Both flags of those boots are sewn into his customised boots in a sign that he has not lost sight of his roots.  

He was brought up in the family home in Rocafonda, a built-up residential area around 20 miles up the coast north-east of Barcelona.

One thing that is striking is how supportive his family appears. After his wondergoal on Tuesday, his sister was in tears in the stands in Munich while his mother was seen embracing another family member.

His uncle’s bakery is now adorned with a graffiti mural of Yamal doing his trademark goal celebration, which involves forming the numbers three, zero and four with his fingers to represent the postcode of Rocafonda 304.

The most is known about his father. Mounir is only 32 – younger than Yamal’s team-mate Jesus Navas, 38, who played against France. 

Mounir’s Instagram is flooded with pictures of Yamal playing for Spain and Barcelona as well as a litany of snaps of them together on their travels. All the big moments, he is there, living his dream vicariously through his son. 

The teenager hails from Rocafonda, a built-up residential barrio in Mataro, a town of about 120,000 situated 20 miles up the coast north-east of Barcelona

Yamal underlines his strong roots to his hometown, forming the numbers three, zero and four with his fingers to represent the postcode of Rocafonda 304

The 16-year-old wears boots that bear the flags of Equatorial Guinea and Morocco in tribute to his parents

The 16-year-old wears boots that bear the flags of Equatorial Guinea and Morocco in tribute to his parents 

His celebration, with the numbers three, zero, and four, refers to his family home's postcode

His celebration, with the numbers three, zero, and four, refers to his family home’s postcode

His father dubbed the photos of Yamal and Messi 'the beginning of two legends'

His father dubbed the photos of Yamal and Messi ‘the beginning of two legends’ 

Yamal was first spotted by Barcelona aged seven. One look was enough for the scout and before he knew it, the youngster was part of the iconic La Masia academy, which has reared some of the greatest players ever.

His posts are full of gratitude, with captions such as, ‘as a father and a person I thank  Lamine Yamal, thank you my son,’ and, ‘thank you Lamine for making me the happiest dad’. He even started a live stream from the stadium during the match against France, such was his enthusiasm and joy. 

As a baby, Yamal was washed by Barcelona hero Messi in club calendar photoshoot. The photo went viral recently when Yamal’s father shared it on Instagram, dubbing it the ‘beginning of two legends’. 

In April last year, Yamal made his debut for Barcelona at 15 years and 290 days, becoming the youngest to play for the club for more than a century.

By now he has already played 54 times for the club and 13 times for his country, amassing more than 3,000 minutes on the pitch last season.

His career has brought some surreal full-circle moments. Once upon a time, in 2016, Yamal was a mascot holding Real Madrid star Sergio Ramos’ hand in the tunnel ahead of an El Clasico showdown. 

Little did either know that Yamal, who had stared up at the defender with such admiration, would pressure him into scoring an own goal and inflict misery on him in a 1-0 win in 2023.  

Spain boss Luis de la Fuente was so concerned about Morocco trying to bag him from under their noses that he handed Yamal his debut last September, when he became the youngest-ever player to represent La Roja at 16 years and 57 days. 

His father, Mounir, regularly posts of his pride and gratitude and follows his son everywhere

His father, Mounir, regularly posts of his pride and gratitude and follows his son everywhere

His sister was left in tears while his mum was seen hugging another family member after his goal against France

His sister was left in tears while his mum was seen hugging another family member after his goal against France

Yamal's father posted a photo of himself beaming with pride after the final whistle

Yamal’s father posted a photo of himself beaming with pride after the final whistle

‘Touched by a magic wand,’ was De La Fuente’s assessment after that match. Of course it was. Yamal had scored on his debut against Georgia, a side who eventually reached Euro 2024, and fans knew it was only the beginning of what could be an illustrious career. 

The trappings of elite football have been quick to invade Yamal’s life and, for this Muslim prodigy, the challenge will be to keep his feet on the ground. 

Superagent Jorge Mendes, whose clients include the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho, swooped in to sign him up from his former agent Ivan de la Pena, an ex-Spain international.

Already there is a deal with sports brand Adidas, reportedly worth almost £400,000 per year, with Yamal’s Instagram occasionally promoting their boots. 

All of this, though, does not mean he can escape more mundane assignments such as homework. 

At the start of Euro 2024, Yamal admitted that he would be spending his downtime with his head in the books.

I brought my homework here because I’m in the 4th year,’ he said. ‘I have online classes too and those are going fine. I hope the teacher doesn’t get mad at me.’

He made his international debut against Georgia not long after he turned 16 last year

He made his international debut against Georgia not long after he turned 16 last year

His goal against France made him the youngest European Championship scorer ever

His goal against France made him the youngest European Championship scorer ever 

There were reports that the national team could break Spanish employment law by playing Yamal past 8pm at Euro 2024

There were reports that the national team could break Spanish employment law by playing Yamal past 8pm at Euro 2024

Spain wonderkid Yamal revealed he has brought his homework with him to Euro 2024

Spain wonderkid Yamal revealed he has brought his homework with him to Euro 2024

At the tournament he has given reason for his tutors to smile – and not only for his prowess on the pitch.

Yamal discovered late in June that he had passed his school exams. According to Cadena Cope, the 16-year-old got through his fourth year of ESO – which refers to the third stage of the Spanish education system, with this compulsory for students between the ages of 12 and 16.

The outlet claims that immediately after discovering the results, Yamal phoned up his mother to relay the good news.

And Spain have even had legal concerns to think of. In the group stages they faced Albania, beating the minnows 1-0. A report prior to that game from German outlet Bild suggested that La Roja would be falling foul of Spanish employment law by playing him. 

The match started at 9pm local time, but kids of 16 or under in Spain are prohibited from working after 8pm. Special dispensation is made for athletes, who are allowed to play until 11pm though that is said to include time to shower and to complete post-match media activities.

At risk of a £25,000 fine, Spain played him anyway. No surprises there. 

The only surprise about his goal against France in the semi-finals was that it hadn’t come sooner. Yamal has been a dominant force on the right wing for Spain, causing mayhem when he cuts in on his left foot. 

His blistering speed, whirring feet, and pinpoint accuracy have brought him three assists at the tournament. Croatia, Georgia, and France have all been stung by that creative eye. Nobody else has more assists at Euro 2024. 

Spain boss Luis de la Fuente hailed Yamal and said he was a 'special breed' of footballer

Spain boss Luis de la Fuente hailed Yamal and said he was a ‘special breed’ of footballer

Yamal delivered a two-word message to the cameras after Spain's 2-1 win over France - 'speak now' - after Adrien Rabiot had mocked him

Yamal delivered a two-word message to the cameras after Spain’s 2-1 win over France – ‘speak now’ – after Adrien Rabiot had mocked him 

His message appeared to be directed at Rabiot after the France midfielder downplayed Yamal's impact at Euro 2024 before the semi-final

His message appeared to be directed at Rabiot after the France midfielder downplayed Yamal’s impact at Euro 2024 before the semi-final

Here we have a genius for whom the world moves in slow motion and defenders appear as effective as tissue in trying to contain him. 

France star Adrien Rabiot, in particular, woke up on Wednesday morning with a mouth full of his own words. 

Prior to the clash with Spain, the midfielder suggested that Yamal ‘will have to do much more than what he has done so far’ to play in a Euros final. 

Yamal’s wonderful goal was the only response needed but just to rub in his brilliance, after the game, the 16-year-old made a beeline straight for a camera and looked down the lens, issuing a two-word response: ‘speak now’.  

The football world should be careful not to apply too much pressure on Yamal. Marvelling at his age is natural given his feats but an obsessive analysis of every touch can lead to a player crumbling. 

Spain boss De la Fuente knows as much. ‘We saw a touch of genius from a footballer who we all need to take care of,’ he said after the win over France. 

‘I would like him to work with the same humility and keep learning with the same attitude and maturity he shows on the pitch. He looks like such an experienced player already and hopefully we can all enjoy him for years to come.’ 

He also recently told Reuters: ‘This kind of footballer is a special breed.

Yamal (left) looks up at Sergio Ramos (middle) before walking out with him as a mascot in 2016

Yamal (left) looks up at Sergio Ramos (middle) before walking out with him as a mascot in 2016

Yamal pictured with his mother (left) and father (centre) after Spain's win over Croatia

Yamal pictured with his mother (left) and father (centre) after Spain’s win over Croatia

Yamal's debut for Barcelona came at 15 and 290 days - the youngest at the club in over a century

Yamal’s debut for Barcelona came at 15 and 290 days – the youngest at the club in over a century

‘It’s unusual for a 16-year-old boy to have that kind of self-confidence, the ability to play and look like a veteran. Because only the chosen ones have that.

‘I’m not surprised by their (Yamal, Cubarsi and Williams) potential and I think that we coaches need to give them the opportunity, balance, security and stability and help them to enjoy the moment.

‘(We need) to be responsible and to put their talent, that super talent they have, at the service of the collective so the entire team grows and thrives.’

Yamal is still in a developing body. Last season he gained eight kilos in weight and grew two centimetres. We are not looking at the finished article by any stretch of the imagination. 

We’ll let him write the rest of it, then.  


Source From: Football | Mail Online

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