Malcom: Barcelona should be grateful Arsenal didn’t take him loan as he could be key in their end of season
It’s no secret that Arsenal and others have been keeping tabs on Malcom as he struggles to establish a spot at the Camp Nou this season, but getting rid of the summer signing would be rash.
Nothing about Malcom Filipe Silva de Oliveira’s nine months at FC Barcelona has been normal – even the way he was signed.
The Sao Paulo native was on his way to Roma from Bordeaux for his medical last July, hundreds of fans gathering at their sporting complex to greet the new signing.
Even his mother flew to the Italian capital, only for Barcelona to come steamrolling in at the last possible second with an offer the Ligue 1 side and the player couldn’t refuse.
The time since has been similarly unpredictable. Despite costing €41m, the Brazilian has played a miniscule amount of football this season. Yet taking a closer look at the details of the little he has featured reveals concentrated bursts of impressive quality.
There was a late equaliser in a key group stage game away to Inter, an equaliser in El Clasico, and a game-changing second-half appearance with an assist in last weekend’s Barcelona derby.
Most 22-year-olds would bite your hand off if offered that kind of impact over only six starts, particularly at a place as notoriously tricky to adapt to as the Camp Nou.
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Yet Malcom’s season has had a disappointing tinge because of what he did after those impressive cameos. The Inter goal was followed by an anonymous hour in a disastrously embarrassing 4-3 home league loss to Real Betis, where a golden chance to shine in the absence of Ousmane Dembélé was blown.
The equaliser against Madrid was followed by a run of six games without playing a single minute: only Ernesto Valverde, who sees the winger in training when we don’t, knows why that was the case.
With the summer drawing closer, the rumours of a possible exit only grow in pace (and a winter exit to Arsenal only narrowly avoided), would Malcom follow his impressive showing in the Barcelona derby in a similarly confusing manner? Afforded a starting spot in their next match, away to Villarreal on Tuesday night, there could be no complaints of a lack of opportunities this time.
It only took 11 minutes for him to deliver. A brilliant, lung-bursting run into space onto a through ball caught the Villarreal backline flat-footed, and a tidily weighted pass on his weaker right foot to compatriot Philippe Coutinho broke the deadlock at a time where the home team had clearly been the better side. Malcom’s grin from ear to ear told a story, and he would soon have cause to smile even more.
Just a few minutes later, with the Yellow Submarine still groggy, the assist provider turned scorer. Peeling away at the back post, his contact with Sergi Roberto’s cross was perfect, sending the header in the opposite direction and into the net well beyond Sergio Asenjo. This time the celebration was the expression of pure relief, the number 14 jumping into the air and pumping his fist. One goal, one assist, only fifteen minutes. If Valverde was looking for a response, there it was.
By the end of the first half Malcom had been hacked down several times by impotent opponents, sick of seeing him leave them in the dust – as clear an indicator of his threat as any. Significant too was that when Barcelona’s first change was made on the hour mark, it was Coutinho, not his fellow Brazilian, who was withdrawn for Lionel Messi. When Valverde made his final two substitutions, Malcom still stayed on the pitch. Barça eventually salvaged a draw at the death.
Prior to the visit to Villarreal, Valverde had spoken of what he hoped to see from Malcom when selected, ‘that he breaks into space on the wing and gives width to the team’. That’s exactly what the forward did against Villarreal, just as he did against Espanyol, and at the moment, no one else in Blaugrana does.
As one of the few genuine wide players in Barcelona’s squad, recent showings suggest the least-used of the Blaugrana’s summer signings could yet prove to be one of their trump cards in this key final phase of the season.
Despite being afforded so little time to shine, Malcom has still managed to do so, briefly. This week feels like a point of inflection for Barcelona’s last-minute newcomer. Or at least, it should be.
Source: SportsLatest TS