In rather upsetting scenes, Lionel Messi hobbled off Barcelona’s 4-2 victory over Sevilla, clutching his right arm. The Argentine was taken off in the 26th minute having already scored a goal and created another.
After the game, the La Liga Champions confirmed that Messi had fractured the radial bone of his right arm. This means that the 31-year-old will not only miss the club’s mid-week UEFA Champions League tie with Inter Milan but the biggest game on the planet, El Clásico.
With Lionel Messi set to be on the sidelines for a number of weeks, Ernesto Valverde will be looking at his squad to see who can fill the void left behind by the Argentine. One of those candidates could be summer signing, Malcolm.
Can Malcolm step into Messi’s shoes for the duration of his injury?
Having signed for Barcelona in July, there is a whole heap of expectations on the shoulders of Malcolm. The 21-year-old was a revelation in Ligue 1 with his form attracting the likes of Arsenal and AS Roma. Little did we know that Barcelona was also keeping tabs on his progress, resulting in a blockbuster summer move. However, life in Spain hasn’t been too sweet for the Brazilian. Starved of opportunities and game time, the youngster has failed to make any impact at the Nou Camp.
Since arriving in Barcelona, Malcolm has played a grand total of 25 minutes of La Liga football. Two substitute appearances are all we’ve seen of the youngster, equating to no goals or assists. But of course, such limited game time could never show the true potential of the former Bordeaux winger.
Despite his muted start to life in Barcelona, the 21-year-old is the prime candidate to fill the shoes of Lionel Messi. Just like Messi was when he first arrived at the club, the Brazilian is a bundle of energy and skill. Malcolm thrives when he’s running at players with pace, getting to the by-line and providing cutbacks for his teammates.
In addition, the youngster is not shy to cut in and take long-range efforts on goal if playing from the right. Last season, Malcolm scored 12 goals and provided 7 assists in 38 appearances, showing that he can be just as lethal as creative. Subsequently, the Brazilian contributed to a goal once every two games last season.
With Luis Suárez struggling to score and Ousmane Dembélé still finding his feet, there’s no better chance for Malcolm to make an impact at his new club. Truth be told, Barcelona have looked sub-par at best without Messi, showing how reliant they are on him. His vision, passing range, creativity, wizardry dribbling, chance creation and exquisite finishing have been all that separates Barcelona from a mid-table position this season.
There’s no doubt that Malcolm is a highly talented player, the only question is of how much of that talent can he translated to the pitch. Whether the El Clásico is the right time for Valverde to give the 21-year-old his first competitive start is a question that can only be answered on the day.