Lamine Yamal’s goal for the ages shows best of Spain’s generational talent | Sid Lowe

Lamine Yamal’s goal for the ages shows best of Spain’s generational talent | Sid Lowe

Can’t drink, can’t smoke. Can’t drive, can’t vote. Can curl a football into the top corner. On the big stage and in the biggest game for a generation. His generation, and maybe this really will be his. Step forward, Lamine Yamal Nasraoui Ebana, son of Sheila from Equatorial Guinea and Mounir from Morocco, raised in Rocafonda, Mataró: postcode 08304. Forward, to the left, to the right, to the left again. And then, that: a for ever moment that carried a country into a final and a new era.

On the eve of this semi-final, Adrien Rabiot warned that the fourth-year schoolkid who arrived in Germany with homework to do, exams to pass and a Euros to win, who had created more chances and more assists than anyone, would have to do “more” if Spain were to find a way past France.

Would this do? What no one had done to France in 525 minutes – score from open play – but he had done, almost exactly, the last time he played them. A year ago in the under-17s. What no one had ever done, not at his age. Faced by a French midfielder – oh, hi Adrien – Lamine Yamal took a step inside, sent Rabiot for cigarettes and bent a belter into the net beyond Mike Maignan. The place exploded, he sprinted to the bench, skidding to his knees, all this a little absurd.

“What Lamine does should be illegal,” his teammate Ferran Torres had said. There was, in fact, a suggestion that, like drinking and smoking, driving and voting, it actually might be. A story went round about German labour law preventing minors working after 8pm. Athletes are a special case, but even they can’t go beyond 11pm; the Spain coach, Luis de la Fuente, joking that he would take him off if needs be, which he didn’t. This didn’t go to extra time and Lamine Yamal departed to an ovation with three minutes of added time left, having made history.

At 16 years and 362 days, his opening goal – his opening golazo – made him the youngest player to score at a Euros or a World Cup; he had beaten Pelé by eight months. Pelé, for goodness sake. Who else might he beat in the many years that lie ahead?

His coach had described him as being “touched by God”. Well, almost. This week, forgotten pictures resurfaced from a calendar produced by the Catalan newspaper Sport, Barcelona’s foundation and Unicef, back in 2007 which doesn’t seem that far back to most of us, in which first-teamers pose with local children.

In one picture, shot in the Camp Nou dressing room, a young Lionel Messi, helps bathe a tiny boy, not even six months old. The baby, of course, is Lamine Yamal.

Of course? The photographer had no idea: Joan Monfort remembered Messi’s shyness, the rubber duck, and even the plastic tub he took along, but he didn’t know who the baby was until Lamine Yamal’s dad put it on Instagram. It was a million-to-one chance. Or, if you prefer, destiny, a blessing, this child as the chosen one. “The beginning of two legends,” Mounir wrote. In Munich, it felt like one.

Who knows where Lamine Yamal might end up – Johan Vonlanthen, whose record he has just taken, is now a Seventh-Day Adventist priest in Colombia – but it’s likely to be somewhere special. Perhaps Kylian Mbappé understood that too, coming for a quiet word before kick-off. For now, he has set a record unlikely to ever be beaten and is heading into the final in Berlin on the day after his 17th birthday. If he never kicks another ball, he’s already done what most players never will.

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The hard way, too. A couple of hours after Rabiot’s warning, Lamine Yamal had quietly put a message on Instagram. In English, it said: “Move in silence; only speak when it’s time to say checkmate.” This was not checkmate, not yet. And it was not just about him, either: all across the Spain team there were immense performers. But they had needed this. A goal down, under pressure, Mbappé up and running and Jesús Navas exposed, Spain had looked in trouble.

Now, with a flash of a left foot you’ll see a lot of, everything changed. Three minutes later, Dani Olmo got a wonderful second – and yes it is his, whatever they say. There was a long time to go and tension to traverse – although the selección saw their way through that with remarkable calm – but Lamine Yamal had made it their game. Nine minutes from time, he almost did it again, another brilliant effort flashing wide, and he was removed at 10.50pm, 10 minutes before the watershed, his work done.

As he walked round the pitch, final seconds ticking away, the stadium stood to applaud. In decades’ time they will boast they were there the night Lamine Yamal arrived. Eventually, he reached the bench, collapsed exhausted to the floor, was embraced by teammates, and then the final whistle went. They had completed what the 16-year-old kid had started. Checkmate.