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How youngest Euro 2024 player Lamine Yamal compares to other Euro 'babies'

:Headline: How youngest Euro 2024 player Lamine Yamal compares to other Euro 'babies':
Sports Mole looks at how Euro 2024's youngest player - Barcelona and Spain starlet Lamine Yamal - compares to previous teenage sensations at the tournament.
Sports Mole

The youngest Euro 2024 player is, by some distance, 16-year-old Spaniard Lamine Yamal.

Already an established member of the Barcelona team, he will nonetheless be hoping that the summer's finals can be a springboard to stardom, as it has been in the past for the likes of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo - both of whom were also teenagers when they made their Euro debut.

Nothing was the same after they strutted their stuff on the continent's biggest stage, and at Euro 2024, there are several young players who could rise to superstardom with good performances.

That said, only Yamal can boast the accolade of being La Liga's youngest goalscorer. However, with such a distinction - and the tag of 'heir to Lionel Messi' - comes great pressure to perform.

Time for the youngest Euro 2024 player to shine

As a left-footed right-winger who plays for Barcelona, it is easy to see why there have been comparisons with Messi.

Unfortunately, this will now be the case for every Barcelona or Argentina winger moving forward. Precious few, if any, will get anywhere near the stratospheric heights hit by Messi over the past two decades.

It is far too early to suggest that Yamal can match Messi's exploits, but he does have plenty of attributes that make him an incredibly exciting prospect.

Like Messi, he has close dribbling control, quick accelerations and plenty of flair. At 16, he is still growing physically, but good balance compensates for a slight frame, and he has not looked out of place in the Barcelona first team.

In 2023-24, Yamal scored six goals and provided seven assists for Barcelona – numbers that are certainly not to be sniffed at given his age. Beyond goal contributions, the most eye-catching stat relating to the 16-year-old is the fact that he ranked eighth in La Liga last season for open-play expected assists. Put into perspective, the next teenager on the list was in 60th position.

That places Yamal reasonably well to compare favourably with the previous 'babies' of the European Championships – even the four names that we have highlighted below, who all went on to win major silverware at some point in their later years.

Previous Euro 'babies'

The following players were all the youngest at their first European Championships:

1960: Fahrudin Jusufi (Yugoslavia)
1964: Zoltan Varga (Hungary)
1968: Jovan Acimovic (Yugoslavia)
1972: Anatoliy Baydachnyi (Soviet Union)
1976: Jan Peters (Netherlands)
1980: Lothar Matthaus (Germany)
1984: Enzo Scifo (Belgium)
1988: Paolo Maldini (Italy)
1992: Duncan Ferguson (Scotland)
1996: Raphael Wicky (Switzerland)
2000: Cristian Chivu (Romania)
2004: Valeri Bojinov (Bulgaria)
2008: Eren Derdiyok (Switzerland)
2012: Jetro Willems (Netherlands)
2016: Marcus Rashford (England)
2020: Kacper Kozlowski (Poland)

Notable names

Lothar Matthaus

Lothar Matthaus had just turned 19 when Euro 1980 started in Italy. Matthaus made just one substitute appearance at the tournament, with that run out coming in the group stages against the Netherlands, but it still earned him a medal when Germany won the tournament.

Matthaus went on to have a stellar career, winning seven Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich and captaining Germany to World Cup glory in 1990. Matthaus is currently the most capped Germany player of all time with 150 national team appearances.

Paolo Maldini

The youngest player at the 1988 European Championships was a certain Paolo Maldini. As a 19-year-old, Maldini started three of Italy's four matches in the tournament before they were eliminated in the semi-finals.

Maldini went on to have a brilliant career and is considered by many as the greatest defender of all time. He played for AC Milan for his entire career, winning seven Serie A titles and five Champions League trophies, and is the nation's third most-capped player of all time with 126 appearances to his name.

Duncan Ferguson

Duncan Ferguson was plying his trade for Dundee United when he was called up to the Scotland squad for Euro 1992 – the first Euros that Scotland had ever qualified for.

'Big Dunc' made one substitute appearance in the tournament but he could do nothing to stop Scotland from crashing out in the group stages.

Ferguson may not have gone on to have a decorated career like Matthaus and Maldini, but he did become a cult hero at Everton, where he is still adored by supporters today. He won the FA Cup with the Toffees in 1995, but only went on to make seven appearances for Scotland.

Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford has controversially been left out of the England squad for Euro 2024 – something that nobody would have predicted when the forward burst on to the scene in 2016.

His form for Manchester United late in the 2015-16 season earned him a spot at Euro 2016, where he made two substitute appearances for the Three Lions.

Rashford has never managed to become the player that many thought he would, but at the age of 26, there is still plenty of time. The aim for the Man Utd forward will be to recapture his best form, as a key to getting back into the England setup for the 2026 World Cup.

Group-stage opponents to provide great test for Yamal

Spain begin their Euro 2024 campaign against Croatia, who have made it onto the podium in each of the previous two World Cup editions.

They also have the tournament's third-oldest outfield player – 38-year-old Luka Modric – pulling the strings, but in this opening test, Yamal could predominantly come up against Manchester City's Josko Gvardiol on an individual level.

His stock boosted by a fantastic end to 2023-24, the 22-year-old Gvardiol is seen as one of the best young defenders in the game, so this would be a clash between two supreme talents.

Against Italy, Inter Milan's Federico DiMarco is a likely man-marker. That said, the Italian is more known for his attacking credentials, so Yamal could have some enjoyment against him under the right setup.

Despite that, Italy have kept a clean sheet in each of their last three matches, so creating chances and scoring goals against them could be tough.

Whether Yamal starts for Spain at Euro 2024 remains to be seen. He was an unused substitute in one of their warm-up matches against cross-border minnows Andorra, but then played 72 minutes and provided two assists in their 5-1 win over Northern Ireland.

That could be enough to see him get some significant game time, and he will be targeting the matchday three clash against Group B whipping boys Albania as a chance to get a strong 90 minutes under his belt.

Either way, if he plays and passes muster against the other two main contenders in the so-called Group of Death, the sky is surely the limit for Yamal in the red of Spain as well as the stripes of Barcelona.

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