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Treat with caution: Barcelona have to be considerate with Lamine Yamal



Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy has always been the club’s crown jewel, and even in climates like the current one Barcelona find themselves in, the academy has been the saving grace.

In times of dire financial distress and constant turbulence in the sporting project, La Masia has once more produced two gems for the fans to be excited about.

After Fermin Lopez shone through in pre-season, it has been Lamine Yamal who has taken the spotlight with his immaculate technical ability and confidence that has shaken up the first team dynamics.

The 16-year-old has shown quality far beyond his years and has broken into the first team after becoming the club’s youngest-ever debutant at the tail-end of last season.

Since then, he has gone from strength to strength, setting numerous records in the four appearances he has made in the 2023/24 season – three of which have been starts.

An unbelievable rise. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

While he is a tremendously exciting prospect to have and the faith that is being put in him already is encouraging to see, Xavi and his Barcelona coaching staff have to maintain a grasp on reality and exercise caution with the teenager.

Use Yamal sensibly

Top-flight experience at 16 is extremely lucrative for any player, and if he’s honed from this stage of his career, he will be set up for technical success without a shadow of doubt.

However, the risk of exhaustion, overload and subsequent injury are extremely important to consider when starting him week in week out.

Pedri serves as a prime example of this very fact. After his breakthrough in 2020, the midfielder ended up playing 73 games over the course of the season.

And the load on his body seems to have eventually caught up last season and even in this campaign, as he is now injured and potentially sidelined till mid-October.

Feeling the effects. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO/AFP via Getty Images)

16-year-olds are still growing into their bodies and the amount of load exerted on players who play is very high.

It is recommended that top-flight players get at least 72 hours to fully recover from demanding matches such as the ones played in Europe’s top five leagues.

A number of Barcelona youngsters in the years past have also had growing pains as they fully develop physically – Alejandro Balde being the most recent example when he started breaking into the first team.

Ansu Fati is yet another example of players who were used much higher than the normal rate in their formative years.

Although Fati’s injury issues stemmed from the horrible tackle he suffered against Real Betis a couple of years ago and the surgeries that followed, the intense and continuous load cannot have helped.

Steps are already being taken

Barcelona are wary of another Pedri situation, where he played every minute of every game for club and country, including the Olympics and the EUROs, a few of which also went to extra time.

As such, it seems as though Yamal is being spared from his duties at the U17 World Cup due to be held in Indonesia in November, which could mitigate a large chunk of his workload.

It was reported earlier, that Barcelona and the RFEF have reached an agreement in principle to exclude Yamal from the youth tournament to avoid overworking the Spaniard.

While he misses out on a key formative experience in a young player’s career, and although it seems like the decision stems from Barcelona’s wish to preserve him more than anything, ultimately it is for the best.

Yamal’s ceiling seems non-existent and fellow players and coaches alike have heaped praise on him.

But to ensure he carries on his current trajectory and becomes the star he is tipped to become, the Catalans must use him with caution.

For now, it is time to enjoy this terrific talent and await as he is poised to make more history with Spain tomorrow – becoming the nation’s youngest debutant ever.

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