After barely featuring all season, the past week has been by far the best of Malcom’s brief Barcelona career so far. In all three of his appearances, two from the bench and one as a starter, the Brazilian winger has made a clear difference. Against Espanyol the previous weekend, Malcom’s cameo on the left created openings that were not there with Coutinho on the pitch and he also assisted the second goal from Messi to seal the win. In the midweek fixture at Villarreal, Malcom made only his second start of the season and had an instant impact with a goal and assist in the opening half.
Although he did not make a direct contribution in either goal, Malcom’s thirty minute substitute appearance against Atletico once again helped change the course of the match. Despite playing against 10 men for most of the previous sixty minutes after Diego Costa’s red card for insulting the referee, Barcelona struggled to create opportunities or openings in Atletico’s defense. With Atletico defending narrowly and having replaced both starting fullbacks, the game was crying out for a winger to be direct and run at defenders. Malcom’s cameo on the right wing provided that, as he caused major problems for Atletico’s deputy left back Saul Niguez and his runs created several promising situations that admittedly failed to bring a goal.
Now that Barcelona are 11 points clear of Atletico with a tiebreaker advantage and just seven league matches remaining, Malcom is in a good position to get even more chances over the final weeks of the season. Thanks to that comfortable lead domestically, it seems certain that Barcelona’s starting players will play sparingly in those seven remaining league matches to conserve their efforts for the Champions League. Even if Malcom has not done enough to force his way into the starting eleven in those matches, the last week has proven that he can also be a valuable option coming off the bench when the situation in a game calls for it.
Despite continued rumors of his departure in the summer, Malcom’s recent performances have proven that he undoubtedly has the potential to make a career at Barcelona. He may not have the talent to match Ousmane Dembele or to cement himself as a key fixture in the starting eleven at the club, but he has made it abundantly clear that he can contribute as a substitute and occasional starter on both wings.