‘Flashes of Messi’: Barça teen Yamal strikes again


Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said Lamine Yamal has “flashes” of Lionel Messi after the youngster struck the winning goal in Friday’s 1-0 win over Mallorca in LaLiga.

Yamal, 16, scored the only goal of the game in the second half, coming inside from the left flank and brilliantly finding the top corner having hit the bar minutes earlier.

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Xavi said it’s unfair to compare anyone with former Barça star Messi, but conceded there are similarities with Yamal.

“I get [the comparison] but it doesn’t benefit Lamine to make it,” Xavi said in his post-game news conference.

“Anyone who has ever been compared with Messi has lost. It is not good to compare players with him.

“But Lamine is left footed, he comes inside … there are flashes of Messi, but we are talking abut the best footballer ever, so it is best not to compare them.”

Yamal has now scored six goals in his debut campaign with Barça, assisting another seven, and is quickly establishing himself as one of the team’s key players.

“Lamine made the difference tonight,” Xavi added “He did not have his best game for Barcelona, but he made the difference, he was totally differential for the team. I am so happy for him at 16 years old.”

Yamal was one of three teenagers in the starting lineup against Mallorca, with 17-year-old Pau Cubarsí starting in defence and 18-year-old Marc Guiu in attack.

Like Yamal, Cubarsí is now getting regular minutes, making his ninth league appearance of 2024 on Friday, with Xavi stunned at how quickly the centre-back has taken to elite football.

“Cubarsí is intelligent,” the Barça boss said. “He knows when to go in for the challenge or not. He didn’t lose a single duel. Spectacular.

“The way he plays the ball out from the back as well, finding the free man … he doesn’t seem like a 17-year-old. Today he had in front of him two powerful strikers [Vedat Muriqi and Cyle Larin] and he had an amazing game.

“He is playing like a captain. It’s amazing, the personality he shows for the team, I think it’s spectacular.”

Ilkay Gündogan missed a first-half penalty for Barça before Yamal’s winner, which took the Blaugrana above Girona into second and five points behind Real Madrid having played a game more.

“It was a hard game,” said Xavi, who announced in January that he will step down at the end of the season. “We missed the penalty in the first half which was a shame because it would have changed the game.

“But we competed and we created chances to win more than 1-0. The win is welcome, three important points fight that keep us in the fight for LaLiga.

“That is three clean sheets in a row. We are defending very well, I am very happy. The team has improved since I said I was leaving. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.”

Barça are next in action on Tuesday when they host Napoli in the second leg of their round of 16 Champions League. The first leg in Italy ended 1-1.

“I am always optimistic despite the situation we are in,” Xavi said of his team’s chances. “The win today breeds confidence. It may not seem important but it is.

“We need the fans on Tuesday and we will give our all to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League.”

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