Lamine Yamal posed with Messi as an infant. Now he's almost 17 and a hero for Spain

Lamine Yamal is used to being the youngest.

He was the youngest player to start for Barcelona (16 years, 38 days).

He was the youngest player to score in a La Liga game (16 years, 87 days).

He became the youngest player to start at a men’s European Championship (16 years, 343 days) when Spain opened this year’s tournament against Croatia on June 15.

And on Tuesday, four days before his 17th birthday, Yamal became the youngest player to score at a major tournament when he curled the ball into the top left corner of the net during Spain’s 2-1 win over France in the Euro 2024 semifinals.

Yamal’s goal came in the 21st minute, evening the score after France’s Randal Kolo Muani headed in a cross from Kylian Mbappé. Spain’s Dani Olmo scored the eventual winner four minutes later.

“We were in a difficult stretch after not expecting to concede so early. I just took the ball and wanted to put it right there. I am very happy,” Yamal said of his goal.

“I don’t try to think about it too much, just enjoy myself and help the team, and if it goes my way, then I am happy [for the goal] and for the win.”

Yamal will be an old man at 17 years and 1 day when Spain plays in the final Sunday in Berlin, facing the winner of the Wednesday semifinal between England and the Netherlands.

Brazilian great Pele had long held the record for the youngest to score in a major tournament; he was 17 years, 239 days old when he tallied a goal against Wales at the 1958 World Cup. Swiss player Johan Vonlanthen was the previous youngest scorer in Euro tournament play, having netted a goal against France at age 18 years, 141 days in 2004.

Yamal is considered one of the world’s best young soccer players, but his first brush with greatness in the sport came at a much younger age. He was an infant when he happened to pose with a 20-year-old Lionel Messi as part of a photo shoot for a charity calendar at Barcelona’s Camp Nou in 2007.

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This photo taken in September 2007 shows a 20-year-old Lionel Messi helping to bathe Lamine Yamal, who has become a soccer sensation for both Spain and Barcelona at age 16.

(Joan Monfort / Associated Press)

According to veteran sports photographer Joan Monfort, who now works for the Associated Press, Yamine’s family won a contest to have the baby included in the photo shoot with a Barcelona player.

“Messi is a pretty introverted guy, he’s shy,” Monfort told the AP. “He was coming out of the locker room and suddenly he finds himself in another locker room with a plastic tub full of water and a baby in it. It was complicated. He didn’t even know how to hold him at first.”

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