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Yamal has potential to emulate Messi for Barcelona, says ex-Spain midfielder Senna

SoccerNews in La Liga 16 Sep 2023

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Lamine Yamal has burst onto the scene for Barcelona and former Spain midfielder Marcos Senna believes the teenager could emulate Lionel Messi’s Blaugrana exploits.

Yamal has enjoyed a meteoric rise into professional football this season, becoming Barcelona’s youngest starter in La Liga and the youngest player to assist in the competition in the 21st century.

The Blaugrana talent also marked his name as the youngest debutant and scorer for Spain in the 7-1 victory over Georgia this month, aged just 16 years and 57 days.

Only two players have scored for a European nation at a younger age (Sam Johnston in 1882 for Northern Ireland and Jozsef Horvath in 1906 for Hungary), and Senna believes Yamal will go to the top.

Senna, a former Villarreal midfielder and 28-cap Spain international, told Stats Perform at the Thinking Football Summit: “He has had a big impact.

“He is really young with big talent. Obviously, he has to be very well looked after, like cutting a diamond.

“It’s important not to rush, so that in the future he can be one of the best, like Messi himself, who left Barcelona.

“He has already shown that he has a great future.”

Senna had a fine career in Spain as a La Liga regular as well as being a part of La Roja’s European Championship-winning side in 2008.

The 47-year-old played with a golden generation of Spanish footballers, and picked out three midfielders as the best he has lined up alongside.

“I think it would be really unfair to choose just one,” he responded when asked about his former team-mates.

“There are many players I played with. I can name a few. For example, at Villarreal, Riquelme, was one of the great players I had the opportunity to play with.

“Santi Cazorla and others in the Spanish national team. Andres Iniesta was very important and created a legacy.

“They are historic players and special players. In my list, I can fit many more but I gave you the names of a few players from Villarreal and the national team.”

Yet Messi – who Yamal has drawn comparisons to – remains Senna’s greatest challenge.

Senna said: “A big part of my career was in Spain, at Villarreal. I was there for 11 years. During this period I met Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola, and I didn’t even have the chance to get a draw against them!

“It was a very complicated period when Messi came along. And let’s say that was the biggest difficulty we had.

“Messi was a revolution of the century. For me, it was the biggest challenge as a player.”

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