Barcelona have signed another Brazilian. Winger Malcom had agreed personal terms with Roma, but the Bordeaux midfielder opted to join the Blaugrana instead after the Catalans hijacked his transfer late on .
Malcom follows in the footsteps of midfielder Arthur, bought by Barca earlier on this summer from Gremio and also Philippe Coutinho, who moved from Anfield to Camp Nou in the January transfer window.
Coutinho became the third-most expensive player in the world when he completed his dream transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona for €120 million (£107m/$144m) plus add-ons and the Reds were one of the teams eyeing Malcom as his potential replacement.
But they were not alone in scouting the 21-year-old, with a number of other Premier League teams interested before Roma looked as if they had clinched a deal and Barca ultimately did so for a fee of €41m (£37m/$48m) on Tuesday.
Bordeaux signed Malcom from Corinthians for just €5m in January 2016. Historically, they are one of France’s biggest sides, and won the title are recently as 2009, yet they struggled in the first half of the season before rallying to finish sixth after the appointment of Gus Poyet as coach in January.
Malcom was one of the highlights as Bordeaux climbed from just above the relegation zone to secure that sixth-placed finish. The French side had turned down a €15m bid from Wolfsburg for the Brazilian last summer and managed to hold onto their star player amid interest from several clubs in January.
He had already proven his decisive quality in an ailing team by then, chipping in with numerous vital contributions – often in spectacular style. His last-minute equaliser against Lyon back in August, where he cut inside from the right and arrowed a fierce shot into the top corner of the net was typical of the impressive input he provided the French side.
In 38 league appearances last season, he found the net 12 times and provided seven assists, a tally that should surely have been greater given he created 87 chances for his misfiring team-mates. When his form dipped, so too did that of the side he carried almost single-handedly at times.
He was simultaneously the greatest goalscoring threat for Bordeaux and also the team’s creative hub, as capable of cutting in from the wing to fire home from 30 yards as he was at producing a killer pass.
Unsurprisingly, when news of Premier League interest first reached the banks of the Gironde, Bordeaux were insistent that they would not sell.
“He will not leave this winter,” club president Stephane Martin told L’Equipe . “What if we got an immediate loan deal back? I don’t see that being in the interests of the club to do that. We’ve not spoken about it and it’s not something we’re working on.”
The reality, however, is that money talks, and it is especially loud for a young and ambitious player working at a club that is operating vastly below his current ability. And that is why, having helped Bordeaux to a respectable finish in Ligue 1, he has been sold on for a significant profit.
Last summer, then coach Jocelynn Gourvennec made the argument that he should be patient and wait for a very big club to make an approach. And in the end, that is exactly what has happened with Barca stealing him from under the noses of Roma.
Having moved from Brazil to France, where he was given a six-month settling-in period on the fringes of the first team, he has already proven his adaptability, while his mindset is ultra-professional.
“He’s always joyful, vibrant and full of energy, you can see it on a daily basis,” Gourvennec explained last summer. “He’s the translator for his new Brazilian team-mates!
“The rumours around him have not affected him at all because, although he’s a young boy, he’s very mature and knows how to be decisive, when you can laugh and when you have to work. He’s always had that in him and he will always have it.”
“He’s totally prepared,” Poyet said after his transfer was confirmed on Tuesday. “It depends on the system, but he can play on both sides. In some ways, similar to [Leo] Messi, coming in from the right. But in a squad like Barcelona’s, it won’t be dificult for him to adapt.”
From being tagged ‘the next Coutinho’, he will now be lining up alongside his fellow Brazilian. Technically gifted, he is likely to be used as a winger at Barca, although he has also played effectively as a number 10.
Malcom is still very much a player in development, but leaving Bordeaux was always likely to be the next step in his evolution and having followed in Coutinho’s footsteps, the 21-year-old looks to have a bright future ahead of him at Camp Nou.
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