Xavi: 'Big expectations' for Barcelona teen Yamal

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said the club have “big expectations” for Lamine Yamal after the teenager starred in Sunday’s 4-3 win at Villarreal.

Yamal created the opening goal for Gavi and hit the woodwork twice, the second time leading to a tap in for Robert Lewandowski to score the game-winning goal.

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“Of course I am surprised by what he does at his age, he’s only just 16, ” Xavi said when asked about Yamal after the match. “Everyone is — I am not an exception. He nearly always makes the best decision, which is what makes the difference in football.

“We have big expectations, even more so when you see what you see [on the pitch]. He is not starting games on a whim. He starts because we feel he can effect matches.

“Like I said, he nearly always makes the right decision, which is important, picking the best option. Two assists today, he’s intelligent, mature. He’s extraordinary.”

Yamal became the youngest player to ever play for Barca in LaLiga when he made his debut aged 15 against Real Betis in April and he has cemented his place in the first team over the summer.

He came off the bench in the goalless draw at Getafe in the first week of the season and has started the last two games with Raphinha suspended, a 2-0 win over Cadiz and Sunday’s victory at Villarreal, when he was named player of the match.

It has led to a huge amount of media attention on Yamal, but Xavi said he will be able to handle it.

“I don’t think there will be any problems managing things considering the way he is and his personality,” he added.

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“He is an extraordinary kid, very humble, works hard, likes football… I don’t see problems. There is a lot of competition at Barça, of course, but he’s ready to play.”

Yamal’s performances have led to calls for him to be included in the next Spain squad, which will be announced later this week.

Born in Spain, he has represented the country at youth level, but he is also eligible for Morocco and Equatorial Guinea through his parents.

“It’s a personal decision,” Xavi said when asked about his international future. “I would like him to play for Spain, of course, but it’s his personal decision.

“He has not said anything to me about what he will do. I honestly don’t know. I hope he spends many years here with Barça because he is a player who can mark an era.”


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