Spain are in a period of transition — but the form of Villarreal’s Yeremi Pino is just one reason for optimism about the future.
Gone are the golden generation that delivered a World Cup and two European Championships in four years — and through come a group of players who grew up during that dominant time.
Luis Enrique has not had the easiest of tasks. But he has done well bedding in a fresh crop of youngsters and has enjoyed success while doing so.
A place in the Euro 2020 final was snatched away from them on penalties by Italy — and they exacted revenge on Wednesday evening by reaching the Nations League final at their expense, ending the Azzurri’s 37-game unbeaten streak.
Among the fresh faces at the San Siro was the 18-year-old Villarreal starlet, whose second-half cameo sparked a lot of excitement. Read on as we explain why.
Yeremy was born and raised in Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, and quickly made a name for himself amongst the youth footballing circles on the island.
After representing AD Huracan and Barrio Atlantico, he soon earned a place in Las Palmas’ youth set-up.
After three years with the Pio-Pio, Yeremy had attracted the attention of multiple suitors from the mainland.
Soon there were just two left vying for his signature — Barcelona and Villarreal.
After weeks of battling, the Yellow Submarine defeated the Catalan giants and Yeremy was packing his bags for the Estadio de la Ceramica.
Within a year of being in the Villarreal youth team, Yeremy had secured a place in Spain’s Under-16s.
He quickly progressed through the different age groups, winning caps and scoring goals at every turn.
At 16, he was already in La Roja’s Under-18s and got his first taste of senior men’s football by representing Villarreal C in the 2019-20 Tercera Division, scoring on his debut against Recambios Colon.
With three goals in his 20 appearances in Spain’s fourth tier, the decision was made to move him up to the reserves for 2020-21.
But after impressing manager Unai Emery during pre-season, Villarreal opted to keep him around the first team instead.
Emery’s decision to trust in youth was risky, but it has more than paid off for the Basque manager.
He handed Yeremy his professional debut in the Europa League against Sivasspor just two days after his 18th birthday.
His LaLiga debut came later that week and he has not looked back since.
Yeremy netted seven goals from 37 appearances across all competitions and ended the season with a couple of records as well.
As Emery picked up yet another Europa League title in May’s final shootout victory against Manchester United, Yeremy became the youngest Spanish player to start a major European final, knocking Iker Casillas off of top spot.
In addition, he is now the youngest player to win the Europa League, eclipsing Robin van Persie’s 2002 triumph with Feyenoord.
Keen not to become just a one-season wonder, Yeremy picked up in 2021-22 where he had left off previously.
He has been unplayable at times and starred at the Wanda Metropolitano with two assists in a 2-2 draw against defending champions Atletico Madrid.
With just a week to go before Enrique finalised his squad for the Nations League finals, he scored one and assisted another in a 4-1 victory over Elche.
In the first international break of the year, he was a cut above the rest in the European Under-21s Championship qualifiers.
In a 4-1 victory against Russia, he had a hand in all four goals, scoring twice and assisting the others.
A goal against Lithuania followed and this, matched with his domestic form, left Enrique with a simple choice.
The world at his feet
With just over a week to go before his 19th birthday, Yeremy still has his whole career ahead of him.
If he maintains his current trajectory, Villarreal will find it hard to keep hold of the winger.
He has committed to the Yellow Submarine until at least 2024 and will continue to develop at the highest level, so long as they continue to compete on the European stage.
For his country, his first cap on Wednesday will be just the beginning.
Alongside the likes of fellow teenage debutant Gavi and Euro 2020 star Pedri, the future looks bright for La Roja.