OPINION: With teenage sensation Yamal, Barcelona can finally move out of Messi's shadow

OPINION: With teenage sensation Yamal, Barcelona can finally move out of Messi's shadow
Yamal celebrates as he sets up fellow La Masia product Gavi for the opening goal against Villarreal
Yamal celebrates as he sets up fellow La Masia product Gavi for the opening goal against Villarreal
Despite financial restrictions and a turbulent period post-Lionel Messi (36), on the pitch, Barcelona look to finally be back among Europe's elite. Going far in this season's Champions League will be the next challenge but how far can they realistically go?

For now, 16-year-old starlet Lamine Yamal should be spoken about merely in passing, a quiet murmur on the streets of Barcelona about a storm that could be brewing. 

That's because Barcelona fans should have learnt from Ansu Fati's trajectory that being the potential heir to Messi's throne has a weight to it almost impossible to carry - that pressure on an academy prospect can become enormous very quickly.

However, what Barcelona do have is a special weapon which few would have expected before the season began. Further, after an impressive first two caps for Spain, the name 'Yamal' is starting to rapidly build traction.

Becoming the youngest player to score in a European Championship qualifier speaks for itself - Yamal is performing way beyond his years.

Yamal in action for Spain

The teenager's name first started circulating in the media after an eye-catching display in a thrilling 4-3 win against Villarreal last month.

His cross swung towards the far post was perfectly weighted for Gavi to head home from close range, giving Barcelona the lead.

And he would go on to dazzle throughout the match, hitting the post twice in a display which had everything but a goal.

He is the latest name to come out of Barcelona's famed La Masia - an academy that has produced some of the greats of the game and now appears to be back to its best. 

Gavi, Fati and Pedri are three exciting talents who have also emerged in the last few seasons, with Gavi and Pedri now regular starters for club and country.

Under manager Xavi, there is a pathway for academy prospects like Yamal once again just like there was when Barcelona's current head coach was playing under Pep Guardiola.

Before Xavi arrived in 2021, the team had lost the identity which made them such a successful team between 2008-12. However, after winning the LaLiga title last campaign, Barcelona will return to face Europe's elite this season in the Champions League.

Can Barcelona reinstate themselves as one of the world's best?

It's fair to say it hasn't been a straightforward road for Barcelona behind the scenes, pulling several financial levers in recent years just to stay standing. 

And this summer's transfer window was another complicated one financially, forcing them to sell the likes of Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann and Franck Kessie as well as sanction the free transfers of club legend Sergio Busquets and long-time servant Jordi Alba to Inter Miami.

And even then Oriol Romeu was their only paid signing of the summer as they signed Ilkay Gundogan and Inigo Martinez on free transfers and Joao Cancelo and Joao Felix on loan. 

Despite that, after the transformative signing of one of the world's best strikers in Robert Lewandowski last season, as well as the emergence of more La Masia talents, Xavi will be pleased with the club's summer business.

They didn't need a revolutionary window and Gundogan, Cancelo and Felix are all fantastic signings who add world-class qualities to a very competitive squad.

They now have one of the stronger teams in Europe once again and a Champions League quarter-final is a realistic goal for them this season... and once they are there?

Well, they will be at the same stage as in 2020 when Bayern Munich dismantled them 8-2 in one of the lowest points in the club's modern history. 

So avoiding any further embarrassment might be their main aim.

The Athletic reported last week that Barcelona's spending cap has been reduced to just 270 million euros by LaLiga, another financial setback for a club desperate to get back to the top.

Unlike the other top boys, the Catalan club are working upstream. As a result, Xavi will have to keep utilising his exciting pool of La Masia prospects which could yet prove to be a blessing in disguise.

As for the new name on the block, Yamal has every chance to fill some of the monumental void left by Messi and help to finally move Barcelona out of the Argentine's long shadow.


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