Barcelona's Malcom scored against Inter Milan on Tuesday night.
Barcelona (AFP) - Malcom cried tears of joy after scoring against Inter Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday but his emotions must have marked relief too after a difficult start at Barcelona.
Signed from Bordeaux for 41 million euros ($47 million) in the summer, the 21-year-old was always circled as a player for the future but his lack of involvement this season has been a surprise.
He was poor when handed a rare outing against Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey last month while some have suggested Malcom was signed at the behest of the club, not coach Ernesto Valverde, who has started him only once so far this term.
His goal at the San Siro, however, sent Barca through to the knock-out stages with two games to spare, even if Mauro Icardi’s late equaliser denied the visitors victory in Group B.
“Malcom Exists”, read Diario Sport’s front page headline on Wednesday, while Mundo Deportivo also centred on the Brazilian, with the headline “Malcom X”.
“We’re all so happy for Malcom,” Valverde said after the match. “He gave us the edge that we had been missing at other times in the game.
“He has been working hard to get better every day. He’s still young and there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
After finishing off a slick Barca break with a smart left-foot finish, Malcom celebrated in the corner, his hands covering his face. His team-mates soon joined him.
“His tears were emotional,” Sergio Busquets said. “He’s not getting the minutes he wants but in training he’s working really hard. He wants to turn things around.
“He’s a great kid. He’s done really well and the goal will do him good. He is going to help us a lot.”
Busquets believes the criticism has also been severe. “It’s not fair that he’s judged on one game in the cup because he had hardly played all season before that,” he said.
“It’s impossible to have any sort of rhythm. There was a lot of unfair criticism about the players that played in the cup match.”
Malcom had been linked with Tottenham and Arsenal last year, and was on the cusp of signing for Roma before Barca made their move. He indicated his long-term future remains at the Camp Nou.
“My dream with Barca is just starting,” Malcom said. “My dream is to make history and do big things. I have to thank my team-mates for showing confidence in me.
“Making my debut in the Champions League and scoring will stay in my memory forever.”