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Former La Masia star debuts at the World Cup aged 19

Saturday’s 3-1 win for the Netherlands against USA in their last 16 World Cup tie will be a match that Xavi Simons never forgets.

The 19-year-old was a surprise inclusion in Louis van Gaal’s 26-man squad for Qatar, despite having had a promising start to life at PSV Eindhoven this season.

Nevertheless, he was selected but having failed to play a single minute in any of the Dutch’s three group stages, he may have thought that his chances of playing during the tournament were gone.

However, he was brought in the 83rd minute against USA to make his World Cup bow as a teenager. It is the high point of a career that started aged just 7, when he joined Barcelona‘s prestigious La Masia academy.

He was seen as one of the most promising youngsters at La Masia during his time there, spending almost a decade there before choosing to leave for another giant of European football, Paris Saint-Germain, at the tender age of 16.

Despite breaking into the first team in Paris, he managed only seven Ligue 1 appearances before deciding to return to his native homeland of the Netherlands.

He has been getting the playing time he was searching for at both Barcelona and Paris, having already made 14 appearances in the Eredivisie so far this season. In those matches, he has registered eight goals and four assists for PSV.

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