GRANADA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 08: Lamine Yamal of FC Barcelona shoots for score their first side goal during the LaLiga EA Sports match between Granada CF and FC Barcelona at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes on October 08, 2023 in Granada, Spain. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)
CNN  — 

For a while there had been whispers in Barcelona that a new superstar was emerging from its prestigious youth ranks. Now, after a record-breaking year, almost everyone in world soccer is aware of Lamine Yamal.

The electric attacker may only be 16, but he’s making a huge impression on both the domestic and international game.

In April, at 15 years and 290 days, he became the youngest player to appear in a competitive fixture for the Blaugrana.

He is also the youngest Barça player to appear in the Champions League and the second-youngest in the competition’s history after Borussia Dortmund’s Youssoufa Moukoko.

Then, in September, he sprinkled his magic on the Spanish national team, becoming its youngest ever player and goalscorer when he came on as a substitute in a 7-1 victory against Georgia.

If that wasn’t enough, the forward became the youngest goalscorer in La Liga history after netting for his club against Granada on Sunday.

It’s an impressive CV for a player who has not yet played a full season in the professional game, and the sky appears to be the limit for the talented forward.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Felipe Mondino/LiveMedia/Shutterstock (13892165bp)
Lamine Yamal (FC Barcelona) during a La Liga Santander match between FC Barcelona and Betis at Spotify Camp Nou, in Barcelona, Spain on April 29, 2023. (Photo / Felipe Mondino)
Spanish football La Liga match Barcelona vs Betis, Spotify Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - 29 Apr 2023

Born in Spain, Yamal has a Moroccan father and mother from Equatorial Guinea. When his star started to shine, questions were asked about which national team he would choose to represent.

That debate now appears to be over with the youngster having already won two seniors caps for Spain.

Spanish national team manager Luis de la Fuente is one of Yamal’s biggest fans and has not been shy about praising the upcoming talent.

“We met him in Barcelona. He was a stalwart of Spain’s youth teams and is a footballer with exceptional power,” De la Fuente told reporters in September, ahead of Yamal’s international debut.

“He looks like he has been touched by the wand of God. He is different.

“We look at the level of the player, not the age. He is ready to compete at the highest level. He is a very important asset for the future.”

After two impressive outings for Spain, De la Fuente has since compared Yamal to soccer greats Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona and the media’s eye has swung quickly in the teenager’s direction.

Unhelpful comparisons

Dealing with such praise and adulation could be tricky for Yamal as he navigates the world of professional soccer.

Many players have shown plenty of promise when coming through Barcelona’s famed La Masia, before struggling to live up to the lofty expectations.

You just need to look at Ansu Fati, who broke through at a similar age to Yamal before falling out of favour and eventually singing for Premier League side Brighton in order to rebuild his career.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 19: Lamine Yamal of FC Barcelona looks on during the UEFA Champions League match between FC Barcelona and Royal Antwerp FC at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys on September 19, 2023 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

But, on the positive side, there are plenty of youth products who go on to achieve great things in the game – current Barcelona stars Pedri and Gavi are perfect examples.

Fortunately for Yamal, who has been at the club since he was seven, according to FIFA, the sport’s world governing body, he has a manager at Barcelona who knows exactly how to transition from academy product to club great.

Xavi, considered one of the best players in Barcelona’s history, has been careful when comparing Yamal to previous greats, but has been equally impressed by his ability.

“I hope Lamine can mark an era, but we are not doing him any favours saying that,” Xavi told reporters, per ESPN.

“It’s true the expectations are enormous and, aged 16, he is playing at a brutal level, which is hugely positive.

“But let’s see what the future holds without comparing him with Messi. It’s not gone that well for all the players that have been compared with Messi in the past.”

A $1 billion talent

While comparisons to Messi are unhelpful, they are inevitable given the undeniable similarities in their games.

Like the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, Yamal seems to always make the right decision and has a turn of foot that leaves defenders in a daze.

Although slight in stature, he has an unerring ability to find his way out of trouble and his body feints look like they were taken straight out of Messi’s box of tricks.

But Yamal is a player in his own right and he continues to perform with a smile on his face despite all the pressure on his young shoulders.

Unsurprisingly, Barcelona has been desperate to tie its latest wunderkind to the club.

Earlier this month, Yamal signed a new contract which will keep him at the Nou Camp until June 2026. The deal also includes an astronomical buyout clause of one billion euros (around $1.05 billion).

It’s testament to just how highly Barcelona regards its new audacious talent, who has all the natural ability to become one of the best players in the world.

Now a fixture in the both his club and national teams, the eyes of the world will be fixed on Yamal’s development this season.

With expectations sky high, it’s yet to be seen if this brilliant youngster can match them.