Attacker | Barcelona | Brazil
Known to many keen football fans for his frequent appearances in transfer gossip columns over the course of the summer, it’s been quite the year for the winger who only reached his 21st birthday in February.
Now with Barcelona, the talented winger from Sao Paulo rose to prominence with Ligue 1 side Bordeaux in 2017 after moving to France from Corinthians the year before. This calendar year saw him make waves in European football thanks to his often scintillating performances on the bends of the River Garonne.
2018 has been…
Really rather good.
Of his 12 goals and eight assists last season, five of the former and three of the latter came after the turn of the year for the Girondins. While the 2016/17 Ligue 1 campaign can largely be considered his breakthrough season on European soil, it was the strength of his performances in 2018 that saw him thrust into the thinking of some the continent’s superpowers.
To put all of that into context, he’s ended 2018 alone just two goals shy of his entire tally during his maiden season on these shores, so his production rate is certainly on the up.
The likes of Inter Milan, Arsenal and Tottenham were all widely credited with an interest in acquiring his services and, while we often don’t understand some of the transfer strategies deployed during the proverbial silly season, it’s easy to see why in this case.
While young forwards are often expected to be rather inconsistent and drift in and out of games before flashes of brilliance, it was Malcom’s stunning work in pretty dire circumstances for Bordeaux as 2017 became 2018 that helped keep the club afloat.
A dreadful run of results in December and January left manager Jocelyn Gourvennec on the brink, but it was his Brazilian attacker’s energy and drive in big games against the likes of Nantes and St Etienne that helped stave off the worsening of a crisis described as ‘unprecedented’ by club president Stéphane Martin.
Catching the eye of bigger clubs all around Europe, Malcom managed to round off his Ligue 1 career by scoring in the last three games of the season consecutively, also adding an assist during his last ever game for Bordeaux against Troyes.
Then, chaos ensued.
Almost daily, he was touted with moves to England and Italy, before Serie A giants Roma seemingly won the battle for his services. With Eusebio Di Francesco and transfer guru Monchi working together to create a vibrant young side in the Italian capital, it seemed like the perfect fit.
However, Barcelona had other ideas.
After being expected to touchdown in Rome ahead of a medical, the Camp Nou giants swooped in at the 11th hour to bring him to Spain, prompting Monchi to suggest the Giallorossi could take legal action.
Still, the allure of lining up with Lionel Messi and the like rather understandably proved too much for the winger, who now finds himself on the outskirts of Ernesto Valverde’s Barca side as they look to end Real Madrid’s dominance in the Champions League.
While largely a peripheral figure right now, there have been glimpses of brilliance in the famous shirt of the Catalan giants. There was a goal on his debut for the club in a pre-season friendly out in Dallas played against, you guessed it, Roma as well as a goal to mark his debut in the Champions League away at Inter Milan in September.
In summary, after a strong year with Bordeaux and a big move to Barcelona, it’s hard to say that 2018 has been anything other than a resounding success for Malcom - even despite limited game time at his new club.
What can take him up a grade, however, is breaking into the Brazilian national side. Clearly, impressing at Barcelona is the perfect way to do that, though the considerable amount of attacking talent Tite currently has on offer with Selecao could make life difficult in that regard.
Still, Brazilians do tend to impress for Barca and, if he can add his name to the illustrious list of countrymen to do that, we could see him don perhaps the most famous shirt in world football on a regular basis in 2019 and beyond.