Over the summer Barcelona further reinforced their squad so much so that their new captain, Lionel Messi (ever heard of him?) stated that he believes they have a squad strong enough to bring the Champions League back home to the Nou Camp.
With several new midfield and attacking options, one key squad battle that everyone is keeping their eyes on is new boy Malcom vs Ousmane Dembele.
As we know, Ousmane Dembele came on an expensive transfer last year from Borussia Dortmund. The Frenchman had spurts of quality throughout the season but suffered from what seemed to be a lack of focus. From not correctly warming up (which might have led to an injury) and in general not being on the pitch enough, he didn’t earn Ernesto Valverde’s trust. Case in point - in the 3-0 loss to Roma, Dembele came on well past the 80th minute, and did not have the opportunity to make an impact.
When in the proper mindset and form, Dembele is one of the scariest attacking players in all of Europe at only 21 years of age. With the success of winning the World Cup still in his mind, Blaugrana fans will hope that he comes with a mentality to not only win trophies, but secure his spot in the team. Look no further then his wonder goal against Sevilla in the Super Cup to see his devastating attacking quality.
A summer signing who will certainly be challenging Dembele for his spot this year is another 21-year-old attacking sensation, the young Brazilian, Malcom. After starting his career at Corinthians in Brazil, he made the move to French side Bordeaux and scored 23 goals in 96 games.
Similar to Dembele, Malcom has the ability to change games with one kick. The speed he possesses along with his quality have allowed him to seamlessly integrate into this Barcelona side, something that isn’t easy to do at such a young age, with such little experience.
Both Dembele and Malcom possess similar qualities. It seems as though the board and Valverde knew what they were doing this summer when signing Malcom. They have created an urgency with both young players to play, not only does this lead to higher competition throughout the squad, but most importantly, between these two players.
Trying to become a better player each day is something that will not only benefit them, but the entire team in the long run. Both are left-footed, possess deadly speed, quality, and an ability to change a game in a moment. In essence, Valverde has a headache… a headache that any other manager in the world would happily take.
Ultimately, as the season begins, both players must make a decision. They know they have been pitted against each other for starting XI minutes and the player that puts in the most effort will likely earn it.
Will Dembele continue to be lackadaisical as he was last year, or will he prove himself worthy as he did at Dortmund? Will Malcom light a fire under Dembele or vice-versa? It will be interesting to see, maybe Valverde will find a formation that accommodates both players (unlikely though).
As of right now though, let’s hope that the competitive spirit that will arise from these two will spark the entire team. In order to win the Champions League as their captain wants, it is critical for there to be a collective effort from the squad, but also a fire burning in each and every player to win as many trophies as possible. With that mentality present from the beginning of the campaign, Barcelona seem poised for a strong season. Visca Barca.