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Malcom: Why Barcelona are least of Chelsea worries in race for Corinthians superkid

He's met with Olympique Marseille and Dynamo Kyiv, but has Corinthians sensation Malcom let slip he intends to join Chelsea in the New Year?

Just 17, Malcom was in Europe earlier this month to meet with officials from Marseille and Dynamo. He was also in Turin in the second week of December to meet with Juventus.

However, just as it was breaking in England that Chelsea were in for the 17 year-old, a Scottish journalist, based in Sao Paulo, tweeted part of a conversation with Malcolm's girlfriend, claiming the transfer to a team in England was already settled, and that he would go to Europe immediately after Christmas.

That single tweet shook up the Brazilian press - and was quickly denied by Corinthians. But Chelsea remain in the background, with Malcom's contract due to expire in May 2016.

Cash-strapped Corinthians know they have something special on their hands, but find themselves in a dilemma with the club only owning 30 per cent of his registration.

Businessman Fernando Garcia, a long time adviser to Corinthians, raised his stake in Malcom's contract from 10 per cent to 50 per cent to help the club pay off long-standing debts. He has since sold 15 per cent to other investors, so leaving him with a 35 per cent stake.

Is your head spinning? No? Well, then consider the increase in value of Garcia's stake - which is understood to now be worth TWELVE TIMES the original price he paid for his shares.

That jump has come thanks to the faith shown by Corinthians coach Mano Menezes last season.

Unimpressed by Paraguay international Ángel Romero, Menezes decided to dump the senior striker for the raw Malcom - and the teen hasn't looked back.

"He had the right mentality from the first moment we involved him," recalled Menezes.

"I think he is a player with great talent and is very promising.

"It is for the coach to find the right time to introduce such talented players. Things fell in place once he came in. Indeed, when Malcom plays, even at his age, the confidence lifts throughout the team."

Malcom has always played his football with Corinthians, where the club protects him from the media. The reason for the buzz around that controversial twitter claim was that no-one in the media have heard Malcom speak publicly. The club insists he's not ready to do interviews.

"He s a second striker who can finish strong and accurately, a rare thing," enthused his former Corinthians U20 coach Osmar Loss.

"His success in the professional game will not surprise me. He's had good training and is very responsible."

Barcelona had two representatives in Brazil in November to run the rule over Malcom. A source admitted: "He's an interesting player, with good potential. If he starts to shine, Barca must move for him."

Meanwhile, the likes of Chelsea and Juventus are eager to do business immediately. But they face a major stumbling block in the form of Corinthians president Mario Gobbi.

Gobbi, with elections due in February, has assured fans he won't sell before the vote.

Indeed, upon returning from Europe, Malcom and his agents were presented with a new contract offer.

Negotiations weren't shutdown, with talks continuing over Christmas regarding a deal to 2018. Corinthians are willing to up Malcom's pay-packet, but also want to increase his buyout clause.

However, Malcom's agents want to keep the escape clause low, with plans to sell him in midyear - at the latest.

Garcia and his offsiders believe a full Copa Libertadores campaign will help increase the profile - and value - of Malcom before cashing in at the end of this European season.

"We've had no official proposals ," Garcia revealed last week. "There's been only enquiries, nothing more.

"I think Malcom will stay with the club (through January)."

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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