Barcelona’s season has been anything but smooth sailing. Having been knocked out of the Spanish Super Cup and Copa del Rey, a draw to Granada last night saw them essentially kiss their hopes of retaining La Liga goodbye.
Such shortcomings deeply dent Barcelona’s pedigree at a club where lifting silverware is always a prerequisite.
Nonetheless, while the campaign thus far has been equivalent to a dark and gloomy winter with no signs of life, Barcelona’s youth has managed to provide an occasional streak of sunshine, inducing relief to fans who have been enduring the biting cold of disappointment.
One of the brightest sources of illumination in these trying times has proven to be Lamine Yamal.
Despite just being a mere 16-year-old teenager, a deft flick and burst of acceleration are all it takes for Cules to temporarily forget about the endless troubles Barcelona collectively encounters.
His hypnotizing feet and maturity on the pitch impart an exit door from the bitter reality Barcelona faces, both on and off the pitch.
Audacity in the face of adversity
Lately, it seems like everything Yamal touches turns to gold. While Xavi meticulously managed the youngster’s minutes previously, injuries to Raphinha, Ferran Torres, and Joao Felix left no choice but to entrust Yamal with a starting spot in the XI.
Having started six games in a row, recent performances show that he is fully capable of featuring week in and week out.
With 12 goals and assists this season already, Yamal’s output leaves no question about his talents. Since the turn of the year, his contributions have especially exploded.
After smashing a great goal against Osasuna in the Super Cup earlier this year and scoring a belter that threw shades of a certain Argentine maestro against Athletic Club, Yamal returned to the score sheet once more with a brace against Granada.
The Spanish winger showed excellent awareness for the first goal and scored a scrumptious strike from range to equalize in the 80th minute.
While his efforts could not bring about the three points, it was still a night to remember for the whizkid. Not only did he become the youngest player to score a brace in La Liga history; but he also became the youngest to record +10 goal contributions.
On an occasion when Barcelona lacked sparks of inspiration, Yamal took on the responsibility of leading the front line. However, this was not the first time he was let down by his supporting cast.
A masterclass against Villarreal recently went in vain due to Barça’s defensive clumsiness, while his golazo against Athletic Club was also overshadowed by Barcelona’s collective shortcomings.
The Catalan giants have been held back by collective discord this season, with defeats and dropped points being a regular occurrence. But amidst the turmoil, Yamal has consistently shone for Barcelona on the right-hand side.
The complete package
The 16-year-old’s upturn in confidence has not just been visible in his scoring prowess, as Yamal has been a cut above with his playmaking and dribbling.
His change of pace and direction while taking defenders on remains a spectacle, and he also wields an immensely precise final ball.
The statistics simply testify to his talents. Yamal is the forward with the highest dribble success rate in Europe’s top five leagues this season, with 59.7%. He ranks ahead of stars like Jeremy Doku, Leroy Sane, and Jamal Musiala.
When he’s not on one of his many ravaging runs, he’ll often be seen playing intricate passes that split defenses open. Indeed, he has the second-most big-chances created (9) for under-21 players.
His talent appears to be far beyond his years, but he also speaks as if he had always been a part of the first team dynamics.
Following his man-of-the-match exhibition against Granada, he refused to throw the towel in during the post-match conference, claiming the Blaugranes can still catch up to Girona and Real Madrid in the league standings.
Moving forward, it would be in Barcelona’s best interest to preserve Yamal’s talent and not run him to the ground. After all, a player with such unique talents deserves the best of care.