How Malcom went from Barcelona reject to Brazilian hero in Tokyo

A last minute return to the Brazil squad for Malcom seemed destined to happen after the 24-year-old scored the game winning goal in their gold medal match against Spain. 

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

In June 2021, Malcom was named in the Brazil men's football squad, looking to defend their Olympic title in Tokyo.

His club – Zenit Saint Petersburg – had other ideas and refused to release him for the tournament.

But the following month, his luck changed.

An injury to Douglas Augusto left a spot open in the Brazil squad, and this time Zenit did clear Malcom to join up with his national team – just a eight days before their opening game against Germany.

Fast forward three weeks, to Brazil being on the verge of defending their Olympic title, deep into extra-time against Spain.

With ten minutes left on the clock, up steps Malcom.

The man who was not even meant to be there accelerated rapidly beyond Spain’s defence to slot home beyond Unai Simon, and secure the second consecutive gold for Brazil.

Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Brazil's forgotten wonderkid

Malcom spent the start of his career at Corinthians in his homeland, before moving to France and joining Bordeaux in the 2016 winter transfer window.

And it was there the 24-year-old lit up Europe, turning the heads of many bigger clubs.

The explosive winger had a quiet first two seasons, but his third really kickstarted conversations around him.

12 goals and 7 assists in 35 league games had people excited about potentially the next great footballing superstar.

Malcom agreed a deal in principle to sign for AS Roma. At the airport, moments away from boarding a flight to Italy, Malcom received a phone call.

FC Barcelona wanted him – and he wanted them enough to switch his plans and fly to Spain immediately.

But the dream transfer soon turned to a nightmare.

Malcom never really got going at Barcelona.

He played just 24 games for the Spanish giants, scoring four times.

Camp Nou never really got to witness the height of his talents, and a year after transferring to Barcelona he was sold to Zenit Saint Petersburg.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Malcom: From zero to hero

At a new club, Malcom had the chance to reinvent himself.

He had a rough start to his time in Russia, with injuries keeping him side-lined.

Returning to action late 2020, Malcom helped Zenit to a third successive league title – prompting his initial call up for the Olympic squad.

And its why Brazil turned to him once again when the spot opened up.

His appearance in the final, coming on late in the game, showed exactly why they wanted him.

An injection of pace and creativity against a tiring Spanish defence proved to be a master substitution, as he went on to scoring the game winning goal.

Malcom will be hoping to kick on from one of the biggest moments of his career, and continue his impressive league form when he returns to Europe.

And this goal could be key in doing so – because he will no longer be thought of as the guy who never quite made it at Barcelona, but rather the man who took his country to a successful defence of their Olympic title.


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