Wembley debut for Assulin

By Simon Griver, July 23, 2009

Barcelona starlet Gai Assulin has been promoted to the first team squad and could make his debut tonight (Friday) against Spurs in the pre-season Wembley Cup tournament.

The 18-year-old Israeli international is likely to start on the bench against Spurs but could be in the starting line-up on Sunday when the European Champions take on Al Ahly of Egypt at Wembley.

Assulin said: “To be playing alongside so many stars is something I have dreamt about for years. I realise I must work very hard to prove myself.”

Assulin’s elevation comes after being granted Spanish citizenship. After receiving his passport from the Spanish Consulate in Tel Aviv last week, he made it clear that he fully understands the importance of holding an EU passport.

He said, “The passport is very significant. It opens the doors to other clubs.” When asked if this meant he planned to leave Barcelona, he quickly backtracked and said, “I’m not thinking about other clubs. My aim is to succeed at Barcelona.”

However, the Premier League’s top four are expected to renew their interest. Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool have all been linked with the attacking midfielder, who models himself on Yossi Benayoun.

Assulin became the youngest player to represent Israel when aged just 16 he came on as a substitute to replace Benayoun in a friendly last year against Chile. But he had not racked up enough international appearances to qualify for a UK work permit, so all enquiries to his agent Pini Zahavi have until now been met with a negative response.

Assulin moved from Israel with his family to Barcelona when he was 12, after scouts spotted him at a summer camp in France, and brought him to Spain.

Last updated: 4:02pm, July 23 2009