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Teenager Yamal’s star rising as Barcelona host Real Betis

Young Barcelona winger Lamine Yamal broke records for Spain in the past week and can continue to add to his collection against Real Betis on Saturday.

The winger became Spain’s youngest ever player, starter and goalscorer during the international break at 16 years old, and is establishing himself as important for club and country.

Yamal became Barcelona’s youngest debutant at 15 years and 290 days old against Betis in April last season.

This season he went on to become La Liga’s youngest starter in the 21st century, and also the youngest assist provider in the same time frame.

Yamal has not scored for Barcelona yet but if he does this season, he can overtake Ansu Fati’s club record—or the overall record for youngest La Liga scorer, set by Malaga’s Fabrice Olinga at 16 years and 98 days old.

The winger was man of the match in Barcelona’s 4-3 win at Villarreal in August, and has started the club’s last three games, all victories.

Barcelona, third, trail rivals and league leaders Real Madrid by two points after four matches, because of their opening day draw at Getafe.

That was the match which prompted Xavi to turn to Yamal to offer some creative spark, as well as a red card for Raphinha opening up a position on the right flank.

Ousmane Dembele’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer was another factor in giving Yamal an opportunity at such a tender age. 

“He’s a mature player despite being 16,” said Barca coach Xavi earlier in September.

“He’s conscious of what he’s going through and he’s happy, the management (of the situation) is very good and for now, there are no problems.”

Barcelona have been criticised in the past for throwing players into action at young ages and burning them out.

Midfielder Pedri Gonzalez played nearly 70 games for his club and Spain in his first season and has struggled with injuries since, while Ansu Fati, now on loan at Brighton, is another example.

“We have to think about it positively,” said Xavi.

“He’s in a process of maturation and growth — we hope that doesn’t happen.”

Barcelona are without Pedri and Ronald Araujo for the clash at the Olympic Stadium in Montjuic, where they will reencounter a familiar face — Moroccan winger Ez Abde.

Yamal might also have chosen to play for the north African country but instead chose Spain.

Betis signed Abde on the final day of the summer transfer window and his direct running could pose the champions an immediate threat.

Real Madrid host Real Sociedad on Sunday, while Atletico Madrid visit Valencia on Saturday elsewhere in La Liga.

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