Lamine Yamal's stunning Euro 2024 goal could herald the arrival of football's next true superstar

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Spain beat France 2-1 to reach the final of Euro 2024 on Tuesday.

I saw a video of a shaved alpaca the other day; this bouffant pom-pom of a head propped up on limbs constructed from velveteen matchsticks, joints knobbly and protruding like melons in the belly of a snake. Watching Lamine Yamal amble over the turf of the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night, little more than a foal in glistering braces, I was reminded of that clip - the slightness of frame, the improbability of proportion. At a certain point, however, the comparison falls flat. Never have I seen an alpaca curl a screamer into the top corner from the better part of 25 yards in a European Championship semi-final.

There have been many astonishing niceties to the teenager’s meteoric campaign this summer that somehow manage to contextualise the freakish wonder we are witnessing without getting any closer to reassembling the melted fragments of a boggled mind; the fact that he has quite literally had to take his homework with him to Germany; the fact that the man who lined up behind him on the right flank in Spain’s sumptuous victory over France, Jesus Navas, is older than his dad; the fact that back in 2008, when his country would win their first in a triptych of consecutive major international honours, he was still just a fortnight shy of his first birthday.

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But perhaps the most stupefying thing about Yamal is the manner in which he makes his precociousness seem so unassuming, so mundane. This is not like watching a child play a man’s game, nor is it a venture coated in any kind of gimmickry or fawning novelty. Indeed, this might not be like anything we have seen before.

The Barcelona prodigy already projects the assurance of a genuine, finished article. It is right there, conspicuous and electrifying, in his weight of pass, his palpable footballing intellect, the manner in which he cuts inside, feigning the whisper of a dropped shoulder to shift and unbalance his defender a smidgen before loosing a shot, like a cunning boy soldier ferreting out from cover to fire off a burst of ammunition.

If he had done nothing else but score that goal in Munich, we would still be talking about Yamal in awed disbelief. As it is, his incalculable strike was just a single thread of gold in a much larger, richer tapestry. This was an arrival - one that comes in the wake of a quintet of other, equally poised arrivals - and one that transcended the footballing biosphere. Who else - at the age of 16, lest we forget - could elicit tweets from a spectrum of onlookers that encompassed Fabrizio Romano, Luke Littler, and Rylan from The X Factor?

In recent days, social media has been awash with pictures taken from a photo shoot for a charity calendar in which Lionel Messi - yes, that one - is seen bathing an infant Yamal. At first glance, you would be forgiven for thinking that it is some kind of hoax, a retroactive misconstruction for the sake of narrative.

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But it is very real, and with every passing exhibition of the teenager’s majesty, it takes on an increasingly biblical hue. Here he is, quite literally being baptised by the Messi-ah himself, the Chosen One of the Chosen One, the heir of which the prophecy has long since foretold.

Because, you see, if Tuesday night taught us anything, it is that Yamal is inflected with a dash of divinity, grazed by the same otherworldly powers that elevated Messi to a status which made him the very best of his generation, perhaps even of all time. It would be remiss, and prematurely hyperbolic, to suggest that the starlet will ever reach the same levels as the Argentine talisman. But at the very least, we can now proclaim with absolute certainty that he is going to be very, very special. In truth, he already is.

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