In recent years, Spain has produced some of the world’s best footballers and it looks like there’s another star emerging.
At just 17 years and 62 days, midfielder Gavi became the country’s youngest ever international player when he made his debut against Italy in the UEFA Nations League on Wednesday.
The Barcelona youngster was untouchable at times during his country’s 2-1 semifinal win – ending Italy’s 37-game unbeaten streak – in what was just the eighth senior game of his fledgling career.
“We already talked about how he is an unusual case,” Spain coach Luis Enrique said after the match. “He is playing like in the backyard of his house. It is a pleasure to see a player with this quality and personality.
“He is the future of the national team like many other players but he also showed he is part of the present.”
The teenager broke Angel Zubieta’s 85-year record after the Athletic Bilbao player made his debut at the age of 17 years and 284 days in 1936.
‘Nothing is too much’
Given his inexperience at the top level, Gavi’s debut was remarkable at times.
Playing against established Italian stars such as Marco Verratti and Jorginho, the midfielder demonstrated his world-class close control and ability to run with the ball.
Signed into the Barcelona academy as a child, his rise to the top has been quick but his confidence seems to know no bounds.
He only made his senior debut for the Catalan side in August this year but, alongside the likes of Ansu Fati and Pedri, he is now considered the future of the club.
“Nothing is too much for him, he has the personality and quality to play at this level,” added Enrique after he had raised some eyebrows with his squad selection.
And it was a debut to remember for Gavi, as Spain finally brought the European champion’s unbeaten run to an end.
Two first-half goals from Manchester City’s Ferran Torres put the visitors in control and the game appeared to be over after Italy captain Leonardo Bonucci was sent off for a second yellow card.
A late goal from Lorenzo Pellegrini gave the hosts hope but Spain was simply too organized and deserved the win.
“The game played out beautifully for us but that was a match of two rivals going at it hammer and tongs with their best strengths on show,” Enrique said.
Spain now faces either France or Belgium in the Nations League final.