18-year-old Assulin shows potential in Barca debut

Isreali teen prodigy plays the first 45 minutes of a 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur in a preseason friendly at London's Wembley Stadium.

gai assulinj 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
gai assulinj 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israeli teenage prodigy Gai Assulin showed nuggets of skill as he made his first team debut for European champion Barcelona on Friday night. Assulin played the first 45 minutes of a 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur in a preseason friendly at London's Wembley Stadium. While he did not set the field on fire, the 18-year-old put in a good performance despite being forced to play out of position on the left wing. Assulin, who already made his debut for the Israeli national team against Chile last year when he was playing for Barcelona B, is hoping to take the opportunity he has been given on the summer tour to convince coach Pep Guardiola that he should be promoted to the first team squad alongside superstars like Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry. His chances were boosted earlier this month when he qualified to receive a Spanish passport, having lived in Spain since moving to play for Barcelona's youth teams at the age of 12. "It was a great thing for me to be alongside all these players," Assulin told Catalan radio. "Pep took me aside and told me I would be starting but not to get over excited. His words really encouraged me." Guardiola coached Barcelona B for a year before taking over at the helm of the first team last summer. In Friday's friendly, part of the four game Wembley Cup, Barca fielded a weakened team which included a number of youngsters, especially in the second half. The Catalans took the lead in the 32nd minute when Ya Ya Toure went on a mazy run into the box and had a shot blocked by the Spurs defense only for Bojan Krkic to fire in the rebound. Spurs pushed forward in the second half and the London side was rewarded just under ten minutes before the end when substitute Jake Livermore headed in a cross from Benoit Assou-Ekotto. The competition continues on Sunday when Barcelona faces Celtic and Tottenham plays Egyptian side Al-Ahly. Meanwhile, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will arrive at Barcelona on Sunday to seal his move from Inter Milan to the Spanish champion. Barcelona said Ibrahimovic would undergo his medical examination on Monday. Barcelona has also allowed striker Samuel Eto'o and midfielder Aleksandr Hleb to travel to Milan to finalize their moves to the Serie A champion, which was part of the agreed swap. Eto'o is set to join Inter for five seasons while Hleb would go on loan for one campaign. AP contributed to this report.