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

  • Lamine Yamal, 16, has taken Euro 2024 by storm playing on the wing for Spain 
  • Mail Sport tells you all you need to know as England could face him on Sunday 
  • LISTEN to It's All Kicking Off! EUROS DAILY: Have France underachieved by crashing out to Spain in the semi-finals? 

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?

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. 

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. 

'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.'

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. 

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.

'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.  

Read more

2024-07-10T08:48:03Z dg43tfdfdgfd