The rise of teenage prodigy Lamine Yamal has caused tension in the FC Barcelona locker room according to El Nacional.
The sky is the limit for the 16-year-old, who this week has been called up to the senior Spanish national team and could break its record for youngest ever appearance maker if given minutes in either of the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against Georgia on Friday or Cyprus next week.
Lamine Yamal has made similar history for his boyhood club, becoming its youngest La Liga appearance maker in April when afforded a short cameo at the end of a 4-0 win over Real Betis still aged 15.
This season, he turned into the Catalans’ youngest ever starter in the Spanish top flight when given the nod by Xavi against Cadiz almost three weeks ago, and kept his starting berth on the right wing in subsequent away trips to Villarreal and Osasuna.
This opportunity was granted not just because of Lamine Yamal’s undoubted talent – introduced to a wider audience when he destroyed Tottenham Hotspur in the Joan Gamper Trophy – but also in part thanks to a two-game suspension Raphinha picked up for receiving a red at Getafe.
With Ousmane Dembele out of the picture after being sold to Paris Saint-Germain for €50.4 million ($54 million) in August, the Brazilian probably thought the right flank would be his.
Thanks to his hot headed antics in the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, however, Raphinha is now on the outside looking in again while currently failing to stave off competition from a player not even old enough to have a driver’s licence yet.
This situation has caused tension in Xavi’s locker room according to El Nacional, with Raphinha the player most affected by Lamine Yamal’s emergence and therefore left “upset” by it.
Being a substitute at El Sadar, and one that wasn’t introduced until the 91st minute when replacing Robert Lewandowski, was a sobering experience for Raphinha.
Furthermore, the boss has already indicated how he couldn’t care less about a player’s age if he has the quality to do the job, which means gradually having to bed Lamine Yamal in won’t be a concern either.
How Xavi manages these two players will be an interesting subplot for the rest of the season, and that goes without mentioning how Ferran Torres fits into the equation as well.