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How will Barcelona replace Malcom?

With the Brazilian now gone, who will be the sixth forward in the Barça squad?

FC Barcelona v Getafe CF - La Liga Photo by Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Now that Malcom is officially no longer a Barcelona player, and taking into account Éric Abidal’s quote that the first team needs six attackers, it’s worth asking: how will Barça replace Malcom?

If the team is really going to have six forwards, we already know about five of them: Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembélé and Abel Ruiz (rumored to leave but most likely staying). Given that four of them (Messi, Griezmann, Dembélé, Ruiz) can play on the wings, four of them (Messi, Suárez, Griezmann, Ruiz) can play through the middle and Ernesto Valverde isn’t really fond of rotations, isn’t five really good players enough for a season?

Well, maybe, but Dembélé has struggled with injuries for two years and Messi and Suárez are likely to play a little less this season since they’re both 32 years old now. Abel Ruiz will be a backup and nothing more, so Griezmann is really the only one most likely to play in almost every game, if not all of them.

Plus it never hurts to have two players in each position in the squad, and considering a starting front three of Messi, Suárez and Griezmann with Ruiz behind Suárez and Dembélé backing up Griezmann, there’s a Messi substitute missing. That would be Malcom, but he’s not there anymore. So who is the replacement?

There is one very easy answer (sorta): Neymar. He obviously wouldn’t be just the sixth forward and his signing would push Griezmann to the bench and make both Dembélé and Ruiz almost irrelevant. This isn’t a very appealing deal and Barça don’t have the money to make it happen, but Neymar wants to come and PSG may or may not be open to selling him. Apparently there’s a deadline to end the soap opera, so right now it’s hard to really think about what a six-forward group including Neymar would look like.

Another option, and maybe the best one, is Carles Pérez. The Barça B winger was really good against Chelsea and fantastic against Vissel Kobe in Japan, and he is expected to play against Arsenal on Sunday before joining the squad for the two Napoli friendlies in America. The problem right now is that Valverde doesn’t like Pérez as the sixth forward who plays very little and doesn’t get meaningful minutes (like Malcom), so his plan is for Pérez to stay a Barça B player but train often with the first team and be given chances to play in lesser matches, which would ensure Pérez would play every week for either the first or the second team. The player and his agents aren’t exactly excited about that idea, and a loan for Pérez could be on the cards if he’s not promoted after the end of preseason, according to reports in Spain.

Another option is Rafinha, who was almost certainly joining Valencia but may not anymore now that there is almost a war going on between the manager (who wants Rafinha) and the owner (who doesn’t want Rafinha). If the owner wins and Valencia don’t come through with the deal, there aren’t a lot of options to sell Rafinha since he has a year left on his deal and teams would rather just wait and sign a pre-contract with him in January. If Rafinha indeed stays, he will be Messi’s backup on the right wing since he played exclusively as a forward in preseason so far. Rafinha knows he won’t get many minutes and will be really happy to just stay healthy for a full season and take full advantage of his few opportunities to impress teams looking to sign him for free next summer, so it might not be a bad idea to have him in the squad as the sixth forward.

These are the three main options to replace Malcom looking at the squad and the rumors, but do you have other ideas? Feel free to discuss them in the comments!

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