Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez praised “fearless” 15-year-old winger Lamine Yamal after including him in the squad for the first time, to face Atletico Madrid on Sunday in La Liga.
The Spanish forward is the youngest ever to enter a Barcelona squad for an official game.
Yamal, who has played for Spain U17s, has developed in Barcelona’s feted La Masia youth academy.
“Everyone in the squad list has the chance of playing,” said Xavi, who could make Yamal the youngest Barcelona player of all time.
“He’s a player who can help us because he is talented, he’s very young, 15, in July he turns 16. He’s got a lot of personality, talent, he can play the final ball, take players on, he’s strong, we’re talking about a player who can mark an era at the club. I’ve spoken to him and he’s content, grateful, and happy.”
The coach said it was hard to compare him to other players and that Yamal has no fear.
“He’s an innate talent, the new generations, the difference with my era is that they have no fear,” said Xavi. “Lamine is different ... he has attributes from various players, I don’t see a comparison.”
Xavi was also able to include midfielders Pedri and Frenkie de Jong in the squad after injury. Ousmane Dembele and Andreas Christensen are not yet ready to play, but Xavi confirmed their returns were close.
The coach also responded to criticism from some of his complaints after last Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Getafe in La Liga. Xavi said his players did not like playing in the afternoon sun as it dried out the pitch, and the grass was too long.
“I won’t change my mind, however many memes they make. In golf, if the grass is not good, they don’t play. In tennis, if it rains, they stop. If it’s wet where LeBron James is throwing, they mop it. I could fill the pitch with puddles, who would that benefit? I won’t shut up,” said Xavi.
“For me, the surface is fundamental. And for the spectacle, if we say youngsters aren’t watching whole games, that’s normal.”
Xavi said he was not only complaining because his team drew, and that he would also have done so with a victory.
“If we want a spectacle, we have to look after the playing surface. Yes, the sun hurts us, because it dries out the pitch, we don’t like playing with sun,” he added.
“If tomorrow they make 200 thousand more memes, I don’t care, I won’t stop complaining.”
Barcelona is 11 points clear at the top of La Liga but after two consecutive draws, faces a difficult clash with Diego Simeone’s in-form Atletico in another afternoon kick-off.
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