Less than three years ago, Malcom Oliveira was hallmarked as one of the sport’s hottest properties, and a fierce tug of war would be carried out for his services.
Initially, the stage had been set for Malcom to join up with Roma. Everything was set in motion; the deal had been agreed and his Mother, along with Gillaorossi supporters, were waiting at the airport, eagerly awaiting the sight of one of football’s chief prospects.
Malcom never turned up at the Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport.
In a quick turn of fate, Spanish giants Barcelona swooped in at the final stage for Malcom, prizing him away from Bordeaux for a reported fee of 41M.
At the tender, progressive age of 21, the move was universally recognised as a serious coup for the Catalan side. And that carried good reason, too.
Upon his journey to Spain, Malcom was coming off the back of a scintillating season with Les Girondins, which truly engraved his reputation as one of Ligue 1’s most potent attackers.
Bearing all the skill and captivating flair that Brazilians seem to have etched in their veins, Malcom’s twelve goals and seven assists directed Bordeaux to an impressive sixth placed finish that campaign.
And within Malcom’s gratifying game, no standout weaknesses emerged to identification.
Cementing an inventive spark as a key component in his footballing weaponry, Malcom ranked amongst the division’s most effective creators with an applaudable 94 created chances.
In the past, the Nou Camp has served as a real hotbed for Brazilian talent; fellow countrymen such as Neymar Jr, Dani Alves, Ronaldo Nazario and Ronaldinho are merely a few names who have manufactured a legacy for the Blaugrana.
Subsequently, the masses harboured the hope and belief that Malcom would blossom into the next bedazzling Brazil native to electrify the Barca crowds. That sense of optimism was very easy to reason with, for at the time, Malcom truly had the world at his feet. But nearly three years on, no one could have possibly anticipated the demoralizing deterioration that would soon ensue.
Now aged 24, Malcom plies his trade in the Russian Premier League with Zenit St Petersburg- a far cry from sharing a dressing room with esteemed superstars such as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Phillipe Coutinho. Where did it all go wrong for the former prodigy?
Although Barcelona is often cited as a footballing romance, the ultimate dream and the pinnacle of success, many would argue it was not the right move for Malcom. A right winger by trade, making that berth his own at the club was never going to be easy, as Ousmane Dembele, and a little-known player by the name of Messi, also provided fearsome competition. Subsequently, this translated to a profound deprivation of action in his sole season in La Liga.
Sometimes, Malcom failed to even make the match-day squad and in the end, only registered 608 minutes of football under the tuition of Ernesto Valverde- who you feel clearly did not trust the out-casted attacker. Truthfully, there was scarce facilitation for Malcom to express his bountiful talents and, offering a stark contrast from the prior campaign, was only able to register a solitary domestic goal coupled with two assists. Although it must be said, Malcom did embrace sporadic moments of brilliance during his brief tenure in blue and red. Goals against Inter Milan and Real Madrid evidenced the impact that the bewitching Brazilian could have on proceedings when licensed with the opportunity to do so, but it rarely came.
That summer, supporters all over the globe were left stunned when Malcom abandoned the proverbial footballing paradise for a move to the desolate wasteland of Russian football, agreeing a five year deal with Zenit. Again, the fee was in the region of 40M, though, a year previously, Malcom never could have envisaged the daunting reality of strutting his stuff in the Russian wilderness. And whilst hindsight informs us that Barcelona was probably not the wisest career decision, moving to the Gazprom Arena only served as an aching epitome of Malcom’s demise.
With the awe-consuming ability he has at his coruscating disposal, this is not where Malcom should be earning a wage as he approaches the prime of his career. Instead, Malcom should be at Europe’s elite, tearing past full-backs, roaring down the line and showcasing his proficient eye for goal.
Sadly, Zenit simply does not feel like home for the former Bordeaux flyer. It is not the accommodative environment that could unearth his glistening treasure chest of quality to wreak havoc on the world of football.
A meagre return of five goals in 34 appearances since his astounding arrival only supports that claim and, if he is to return to the scintillating stardom that once surrounded his presence, a forthcoming departure needs to be targeted. Whilst you may be a victim of self-engineered disappointment if you expect Europe’s big guns to place Malcom at the summit of their summer shopping lists, you still feel a host of fairly-renowned suitors across the continent would be more than willing to take the rocket-heeled wide man on.
Perhaps, a switch back to France, where Malcom sculpted his promise could beckon. Or, ideally, how spellbinding would it be to observe the Zenit forward blitzing past Premier League defences?
Wherever his next destination may lie, we all possess the hope that the fallen, forgotten star can be rekindled.
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