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Rising Young Stars like Lamine Yamal: Teen Footballers Transforming the Game

 Rising Young Stars like Lamine Yamal: Teen Footballers Transforming the Game

Lamine Yamal of FC Barcelona
Lamine Yamal of FC Barcelona during the La Liga EA Sports match between FC Barcelona and Atletico de Madrid played at Lluis Companys Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Barcelona, Spain(Image-Getty) 

In April this year, 15-year-old Lamine Yamal made his debut with quite a stir. The young winger is now Barcelona's youngest footballer. Yamal was 15 years and 290 days old when he came on as a substitute for Gavi in the 83rd minute of the match against Real Betis in La Liga. Yamal has caught everyone's attention not only as a young player, but also with his performance on the field. Francisco Kamardar made his AC Milan jersey debut in Serie A last November, exactly 7 months after the Moroccan-born teenager made his debut.

His debut is even more significant. Because Yamal is the youngest player in a club but Kamarada is the youngest player in a league. Kamarda was 15 years and 260 days old at the time of Abhishek. Apart from this, PSG's Warren Zara-Emery can also be said. In August 2022, he made his debut as PSG's youngest star. He was then 16 years and 330 days old.

The debut of two footballers who were in their teenage years in close proximity is not entirely coincidental. Even these are not exceptional examples. Instead, they arrived at the stage of football at a young age through a homogeneous process, purpose and tendency. Which is gradually becoming the mainstream of football. But what purpose is driving the coaches and clubs in this direction? Why are players being relegated to the highest level of professional football before they are even teenagers?

It is well known that the main breeding ground for footballers is the academies of the clubs. The clubs find potential children and teenagers by scouting from all over the world. Then they are divided into age groups. Not everyone in an academy can eventually produce the ultimate burst of talent. But many emerging young faces emerge right through the process. Everyone knows that Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta came out of Barca's own academy.

But not everyone can build a career for their respective clubs. There are countless examples of getting established in one club and finding yourself in another club. Basically, clubs sell players whose style of play differs from their parent team's philosophy during their time in the academy. In some cases a player is sent out on loan to another club to develop and get match time. In addition, mid-level clubs such as Borussia Dortmund, Porto or Benfica produce players for sale. On average, they sell potential players to big clubs at high prices.

And the footballers who the clubs consider to be promising and game-changing players, are dropped directly on the field. Those budding teenagers later emerged as superstars. These are basically the very basics of club football team formation and management. This has been going on in club football for a long time. But what is noticeable now is that clubs are increasingly fielding teenage or post-adolescent players. As a result, the club and league records for entering the field at a young age are also being broken. There are several reasons behind this trend. Where reducing economic pressure, coaches' vision, generational change, adapting to the emergence of new talent and enormous vitality are particularly significant.

Barcelona is the biggest example of turning to teenage or post-adolescent talent due to financial constraints. When Javi Hernandez took over the club, the Catalan club was struggling to survive. Financial crisis and constraints pushed the club to the brink of the abyss. Xavi started the work of changing this disaster of the club into a possibility. To reduce the financial pressure, the Barca legend stopped buying big players and started his work with the aim of returning the 'Barca DNA'. One by one, the academy players started to get opportunities in the first team, which also brought Xavi great success.

Yamal has already been mentioned. Apart from this, Xavi started playing players like Casado and Alex Garrido among others. Apart from them, Pedri or Gavira have also entered the field with the big responsibility of Barca at a young age. Barca has been able to buy those at a relatively low price. According to one of the soccer-based analytics portal Analysts, Barca spent 8,555 minutes on the field last season with under-21 players, the most in Europe's top leagues after Lyon (11,153 minutes). In addition, Arsenal are in the top four in playing under-age players. The average age of the starting XI was 25 years and 51 days. Clubs like Valencia, Leverkusen and Southampton are also on the list.

There are currently two opposing philosophies between coaches at Europe's top clubs. On the one hand, where Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp or Xavira walk the path of developing players to implement their philosophy, Carlo Ancelotti, Jose Mourinho, Mauricio Pochettino or Ten Hagar look for the secret to quick success. As a result, the first team coaches are giving more opportunities to youngsters in selecting players. Basically, they create teams by combining youth with experience.

Jack Grealish of Manchester City
Jack Grealish of Manchester City runs with the ball during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at Etihad Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Manchester, England.(Image-Getty) 

For example, Pep Guardiola showed the luxury of buying Jack Grealish for €100 million. He is the one who brought in unknowns like Julián Álvarez, Phil Foden or Jeremy Dokod. "It's an important aspect," Guardiola said of giving more opportunities to youngsters last February. Age is very important during transition. When we buy a player like Mateo Kovacic, we have to try to make another one young. Their careers are also important. May they get the opportunity to make a name for themselves in the world of football.

Xavi and Klopp are doing the same with young players like Guardiola. Both have high-priced stars in their squads, as well as plenty of youngsters. These coaches emphasize their sights as much as possible. As a result, young people are getting more opportunities in their team.

Stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar or Karim Benzema have left Europe. A generation has ended with the departure of these star footballers. As a result, a large empty space has been created. Meanwhile, Kylian Mbappe-Arling Holland have established themselves as representatives of youth. But these two names are not enough. As a result, the clubs have to give opportunities to other talented youngsters. Jude Bellingham, Rodrigo, Alvarez, Gavi, Jamal Musiala, Foden have all made the most of that opportunity. In this sequence, very young people like Yamal-Kamarda have been brought to the stage. They will essentially carry forward the flag of the new day of football.

It is said that modern football is a journey from beauty to bond. But that bond also provided some added benefits. It brought football into a structure and discipline. That's why the flowers of talent are no longer wasted everywhere like in the past. Apart from that, scouting is now moving forward with a much more systematic and planned approach than before. Even the talent of the distant world is no longer hidden because of the Internet and social media. As a result, wherever potential is seen, clubs are rushing in and scooping up players to bring themselves into the shadows. That's why the football-world is witnessing an explosion of young talent at the same time. Which is having a very positive effect on football as a whole.

Fitness also plays a big role in getting opportunities for youngsters. As days go by, football is becoming a more physical game. That is why the importance of speed has increased more than creativity. Coaches are also now giving more importance to the team role of the players rather than showing individual skills, which is largely dependent on fitness. And the speed and vigor of the young is naturally greater than that of the experienced. As they can get into the opponent's box quickly, they are also ahead of the older ones when it comes to tackling. The dynamic youngster can also carve out spaces from opposing players a lot. If this is accompanied by the ability to make the right decision at the right time, then that player is a yojana ahead of others.

The above reasons can be brought to the field every three days. Injuries and fatigue take a toll on players. As a result, the teams have to keep the young and the very young ready. Those who are physically able to take more pressure than others. A few days ago Kamarda's debut was also due to the injury of one player after another of AC Milan. But all in all, this may just be the beginning of the very young becoming more important. Maybe this will become a regular picture in the days to come.

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