In Focus: Sky is the limit for Spain wonderkid Gavi
Teenage sensation Gavi became the youngest World Cup goalscorer since Pele when he fired home a superb volley in Spain's 7-0 opening win over Costa Rica.
The Barcelona midfielder has long been seen as the future of La Roja but last night’s evidence suggests he could also be their present.
Ahead of their mouthwatering second Group E clash with Germany on Sunday, we turn the spotlight on the Spanish wonderkid.
Part of the furniture
Gavi may only be a teenager but his starring role for his country will come as little surprise to those who have followed his career closely.
While Qatar is his first World Cup, he been a regular for club and country for some time.
Yesterday’s hammering at the Al Thumma Stadium saw the 18-year-old starlet pick up his 14th senior cap, while he already has 66 Barcelona appearances to his name.
The fact there was no place in Luis Enrique’s squad for Liverpool midfield star Thiago Alcantara is a marker of just how much faith the Spanish boss has in Gavi as he bids to win his country their second World Cup.
Gavi showed exactly why he is a superstar in the making with a purring display against Los Ticos.
While donning the No9 shirt for his country, the youngster was selected in his familiar No8 position alongside Barca team-mates Pedri and Sergio Busquets.
Spain completed an incredible 978 passes in a truly dominant performance — the most of any side at the tournament so far, with England the nearest challengers on 716 against Iran.
With 67 passes completed of 74 attempted individually as well as 92 touches, the cultured midfielder was too much for the underdogs to handle throughout.
His lofted pass led to Dani Olmo opening the scoring after 11 minutes but it was his 74th-minute strike to make it 5-0 that really caught the eye.
The Seville native raced on to Alvaro Morata’s cross and struck a first-time volley with the outside of his boot, which flew in off the post.
Not only did that make him the youngest World Cup goalscorer since a certain 17-year-old Pele back in 1958, he also wrote himself into Spanish folklore by becoming their youngest scorer in the competition.
Emulating the greats
The showing of Gavi and fellow Barcelona teen Pedri has naturally drawn comparisons with one of the nation’s greatest duos.
Helped by the presence of Busquets, they completed 152 of their 162 combined passes yesterday, while also conjuring four chances between them.
As two technically-gifted maestros with a telepathic understanding on the field, it is no surprise to hear the names Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta mentioned when watching them play.
That duo were the heartbeat of Spain’s era of tournament dominance between 2008 and 2012 — and La Roja have not looked the same animal since they hung up their boots.
That is why seeing the teenage duo strutting their stuff has Spain's fans so excited for the future once again.
Back in March, Pedri, 19, said: "Let’s hope we can be a duo like Xavi and Iniesta but it will be tough to repeat what they did.
"I have a special relationship with [Gavi] and I really appreciate him, he has great potential."
Sky is the limit
Much like a handful of teenage talents shining on the world’s biggest stage, it is extraordinary to think of the heights Gavi can still reach.
And it seems boss Luis Enrique believes the sky is the limit for his No9.
On how special he can become, he said: "I don’t know, I hope every time he keeps playing better and trying to be aggressive with the ball and without the ball.
"He’s a unique player. He's only 18 but he has the personality of an experienced player and it’s a pleasure to play with a boy who needs only a little bit of pause and calm at times.
"We are very happy to have him in the team and I think he's going to be one of the stars of world football."
Continue the way he has started at the World Cup and Gavi may have that star status already secured by the time the tournament concludes.