Brazilian ace Malcom says he will not flee Russian giants Zenit St. Petersburg despite a wave of foreign stars departing the country in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine.
The winger joined the Russian Premier League champions from Barcelona for a €40 million fee in the summer of 2019, making him the biggest marquee signing for the Russian league in recent years.
But after Moscow launched its military assault in Ukraine, a host of foreign names have quit Russian clubs, aided by a FIFA ruling which allows them to unilaterally suspend their contracts until the end of the season.
Malcom says he has no intention of joining the exodus – even if the current UEFA ban on Russian clubs means the prospect of no Champions League football for Zenit next season.
“I’m a professional… I have a contract with Zenit. There are still two and a half years left on this contract and no matter what happens, I’ll stay in St. Petersburg,” the 25-year-old told Sport24.
Zenit agreed the termination of their deal with Ukrainian defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy last month, although a host of other foreign stars such as highly-rated Colombian midfielder Wilmar Barrios and Malcom’s fellow Brazilians Claudinho, Douglas Santos and Wendel have all remained.
Malcom dismissed any suggestions that the Gazprom-backed club had threatened sanctions against their foreign stars should they try to leave, and stressed the situation was “calm” and “safe” in Russia, according to Sport24.
After struggling to settle and enduring an injury-hampered start to life at Zenit, the Brazilian has enjoyed a significant uplift in form this campaign.
Malcom began this season on the back of Olympic glory with Brazil in Tokyo last summer, scoring an extra-time winner against Spain in the final.
Thus far in Zenit’s Russian Premier League defense, he has contributed six goals and six assists in 18 appearances as the league leaders aim to make it four consecutive domestic crowns.
Elsewhere in the Russian Premier League this week, Spartak Moscow’s Jordan Larsson – son of former Sweden, Barcelona and Celtic icon Henrik Larsson – became the latest foreign star to depart when he suspended his contract and moved to AIK in his homeland.
Others to leave Russian clubs since the conflict erupted with Ukraine include manager Daniel Farke, who departed Krasnodar without overseeing a single competitive game, and fellow German coach Markus Gisdol, who walked out on his position at Lokomotiv Moscow.
Highly rated Georgian midfielder Khvicha Kvaratskhelia was recently forced to leave Rubin Kazan after his family reportedly faced threats due to his continued appearances in Russia. The 21-year-old has switched to Dinamo Batumi in Georgia, with a rumored transfer to Serie A title-chasers Napoli said to be on the cards.