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Yamal only started playing 11-a-side FOUR YEARS ago, now he’s Euro 2024 star

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LAMINE YAMAL confirmed his status as football’s next superstar in Munich – but has only been playing 11-a-side games for four years.

Spain’s incredible 16-year-old bent home the goal of the tournament so far against France as La Roja sealed the spot in the final.

Yamal scored the goal of the tournament on Tuesday

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Yamal scored the goal of the tournament on TuesdayCredit: Alamy
And announced himself as football's next superstar

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And announced himself as football’s next superstarCredit: AP

Fans in Barcelona have long known just how good this little winger could be, but that one strike of his left boot was the birth of a global phenomenon.

We have seen Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi vacate the stage and leave it to the likes of Kylian Mbappe.

Here is another who could well be in that bracket before long – and he’s not even old enough to drive yet.

It was not even that long ago that he was considered too young for proper football.

His first five years in Barcelona’s academy were spent playing seven-a-side football, up until the age of 12 in 2020 when he finally got a crack at 11-a-side games.

Yamal’s story is baffling, brilliant and barely believable in equal measure.

He is a boy born to a Moroccan father and a mother from Equatorial Guinea, who turns 17 tomorrow and was cradled by footballing royalty at just six months old.

Staggering pictures of Yamal as a baby being held and bathed by Messi, taken for a Barcelona charity calendar 16 years ago, resurfaced this week.

Yamal was held by Lionel Messi as a baby, leading some to joke that the Argentinian transferred his footballing powers to him

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Yamal was held by Lionel Messi as a baby, leading some to joke that the Argentinian transferred his footballing powers to himCredit: AP
They met again when Yamal was coming through Barcelona's academy

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They met again when Yamal was coming through Barcelona’s academyCredit: X
Yamal only started playing 11-a-side football four years ago

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Yamal only started playing 11-a-side football four years ago

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He did not restrict his brushes with greatness to Barcelona either, with footage of Yamal as an academy player walking as a mascot with Spain and Real Madrid icon Sergio Ramos at an El Clasico in 2016.

There is a touch of fate about this gem, Spain‘s “little MVP”, as teammate Nico Williams has dubbed him.

Lamine Yamal explains cheeky message he did in Spain v France Euro 2024 match

The two wingers have become close at their Donaueschingen base in southern Germany – where Yamal has been doing homework in his spare time and received exam results during the tournament.

He passed, obviously.

That feeling of destiny was not only evidenced in the fact that it was his goal which got Luis de la Fuente’s men back on course to the final – but that he had scored a near identical one against the same opposition, in a Euros semi-final, a year ago for Spain’s Under-17s.

Arguably that one was an even sweeter finish, but nothing will ever compare to doing it on this stage, under this pressure at that age.

Spain were a goal down and looking wobbly before that thunderbolt from a now famous left foot, one which has gone straight into the history books.

The youngest ever goalscorer at the Euros, also becoming the youngest player to ever start a major semi-final – claiming that title from Pele.

But it was not just this moment of magic everyone was delighted by.

Yamal’s teammates and manager hailed his work off the ball, while he picked up a card early in extra time for a challenge on the far bulkier Theo Hernandez as France threatened to break.

Yamal dummied past Adrien Rabiot before scoring his wondergoal

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Yamal dummied past Adrien Rabiot before scoring his wondergoalCredit: Getty

It earned Yamal a yellow card and the affection of anyone watching who was not wearing blue. He left to a standing ovation a couple of minutes later.

Rodri said: “I am very, very proud of him.

“People will hold on to the goal, that sudden starring moment from a kid who is 16.

“And you have to have enormous quality to be able to do that, and doing it in a semi-final speaks to the player he is, the incredible future he has.

“Very few players can do that.

“But I hold on to his defensive commitment, the support he gave teammates, how he closed off spaces, the oxygen he gave us.

“How complete his game was, and I told him that personally. Chapeau.”

That work rate and focus on the collective over the individual brilliance, moments which can be clipped up and shared, is something that was always noted by academy coaches at Barcelona, the club he joined aged seven.

They were impressed by his humble approach on and off the pitch, something which showed around a clash with France’s established stars.

Adrien Rabiot probably felt quite embarrassed as he boarded his plane back home from Germany.

The France midfielder had tried to intimidate Yamal ahead of their semi-final clash.

Rabiot had said: “To reach a final at the Euros, he needs to do more than he’s done up until now.”

Was this good enough, then? Yamal responded with a goal for the ages and a man of the match performance.

But that is not nearly the best of it, in creating the space for the goal the winger skipped past Rabiot and left him in a spin – powerless to stop this moment of history.

Speaking down the camera lens on the pitch at full time, Yamal simply said: “Speak now, speak now.”

The wonderkid shouted at the camera 'speak now' as he celebrated reaching the final

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The wonderkid shouted at the camera ‘speak now’ as he celebrated reaching the final
Oliver Skipp stole the show against Yamal's Barcelona in pre-season

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Oliver Skipp stole the show against Yamal’s Barcelona in pre-seasonCredit: Reuters

Asked to expand on that afterwards, he added: “The person I’m talking about will know who he is. I’m just happy about reaching the final.”

Rabiot and the rest of us know exactly who he was talking about.

A season which started with a pre-season game against Tottenham where Yamal excelled but was overshadowed by Oliver Skipp scoring a brace will end on the biggest stage European football has to offer on Sunday.

From being outshone by Skipp to eclipsing Pele’s records is not a bad year’s work – just imagine what he will do when he grows up.

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