Tottenham Hotspur were regularly linked with Atalanta midfielder Ruslan Malinovskyi during the summer transfer window and the Ukrainian could have been Antonio Conte’s own version of Neymar had he moved to the north London club.
It was suggested late during the summer that Spurs were keen on signing the 29-year-old, with Conte keen to bolster his creative options at Spurs before the window shut, although any deal for Malinovskyi was expected to cost around €45m (£39m).
Unfortunately for Conte, Fabrizio Romano confirmed on deadline day that he would remain with the Serie A side, saying:
“Ruslan Malinovskyi stays at Atalanta, no Tottenham or OM move. Decision has been made by Atalanta president Percassi.”
Last season saw the Ukraine international contribute six goals and four assists in Serie A for Atalanta, averaging a solid 6.91 rating from WhoScored for his performances.
This is more goals contributions than any offensive-minded midfielder, of which there are few and far between, in Spurs’ squad last season, so it is clear that Conte could have used a more creative option in the middle of the park.
According to FbRef, the tenth-most similar attacking midfielder/winger to Malinovskyi is PSG superstar Neymar.
Indeed, that is a rather remarkable comparison with the Brazil international being recognised as one of the top players in world football during his time with PSG and Barcelona, regularly featuring on the Ballon d’Or shortlist.
However, it merely shows just how good a signing this could have been for Paratici and co.
Neymar has started the new season in impeccable form, contributing seven goals and six assists in just five league appearances, averaging a phenomenal 8.91 rating from WhoScored for his performances.
Last season saw Malinovskyi and Neymar register similar statistics in terms of expected assists per 90 minutes (0.35 vs 0.37) and overall crosses (32 vs 33), demonstrating their similar creative threat in the final third. Furthermore, they were pretty alike when it came to carrying the ball forward with the latter registering 10.6 progressive carries per 90 compared to the former’s 7.74 per 90.
Although no doubt identical, with the Brazilian offering flair on a par with very few, there are clear parallels to how they play the game.
WhoScored suggests that both Malinovskyi and Neymar excel at dribbling and key passes, something that can be seen above. That purely emphasises, however, just how alike they are, and as a result, Fabio Paratici might well regret not pushing harder to sign the “stunning” – in the words of reporter Josh Bunting – Atalanta man for Conte’s side.