Malick Yalcouyé: The Malian Wonderkid Who Is Taking Sweden by Storm

Malick Junior Yalcouyé has only been playing in Europe since February and is just 1.69 meters tall. Yet many renowned European clubs, including Manchester United, Liverpool, Bayern Munich AA Gent, and Ajax are vying for this Malian midfielder currently playing in Sweden. A closer look at his specific qualities reveals why. This analysis of this exceptional dribbler delves into his strengths, weaknesses, and what he can add to the games of interested clubs.


Who is he?


Yalcouyé has already significantly impacted the Swedish top division, the Allsvenskan, at just eighteen years old, during his European debut season. He joined IFK Göteborg in 2024 from the renowned Ivorian academy ASEC Mimosas, following in the footsteps of many successful players who have taken a similar step in recent years.


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Many of these players began their European adventure at Hammarby due to the close relationship between the two clubs. Still, Yalcouyé chose to continue his career at league-rival IFK Göteborg.


Malick Yalcouyé had only played one official match in his professional career before joining IFK, a 13-minute appearance in the CAF Champions League in 2023. Therefore, he was inexperienced and new to professional football when he arrived in Gothenburg last winter.


Despite adjusting to the climate of wintery Northern Europe, he quickly earned a starting spot in the classic blue and white shirt with his excellent performances in cup matches in late February and early March. By the time the Allsvenskan season started in April, he had already secured his place in IFK’s starting lineup and is now making a huge impression.



Despite shining for only half a year in IFK Göteborg’s shirt, his club is open to a transfer if it can set a record amount. Technical director Ola Larsson recently indicated they want at least double the current transfer record of around €4 million. They received that amount in 2019 from KRC Genk when the Belgians signed Benjamin Nygren. However, Nygren did not make a lasting impression there and is now playing in Denmark with FC Nordsjaelland after a loan spell at Heerenveen.


Where does he excel?


Yalcouyé is a dynamic central midfielder who excels in a box-to-box role. He has a very high work ethic and covers a lot of ground vertically and horizontally on the field. His excellent positional sense leads to many ball recoveries through tackles and interceptions.


He is good at reading the game, allowing him to anticipate passes and position himself close to passing lanes. His timing in tackles is excellent, and he often wins the ball with his quick actions. His intense playing style enables him to cover the field tirelessly, making his defensive play very compelling.


Malick Yalcouyé – Dribbling from FootballSE24 on Vimeo.



Yalcouyé is active with and without the ball, averaging 14.34 offensive and defensive actions per match. He has the most successful offensive actions per 90 minutes of all central midfielders in the Swedish league, demonstrating his strong involvement in the game.


Despite his slim and seemingly weak build, he is extraordinarily agile and can change direction effortlessly. This agility is very useful both in possession and out of possession. With the ball at his feet, he uses his dexterity and quick footwork to outsmart opponents and dribble forward, even in tight spaces under pressure.


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When moving without the ball to create or receive space, Yalcouyé’s movements and runs are unpredictable and difficult to track due to quick direction changes and rapid acceleration. In defensive situations, he has a wide range of movement, allowing him to adjust his body and position to the situation. He can fall back and wait to engage but often intervenes as quickly as possible, regularly winning the ball.


The match situation below illustrates his intense playing style well. We see his high starting position in a midfield three, with a defensive midfielder behind him providing cover. This allows him to advance, anticipate the situation well, use his speed to intercept the ball, dribble upfield, and find a pass into the box in a matter of seconds.


Malick Yalcouyé – Progression from FootballSE24 on Vimeo.


Despite his small stature, he enjoys duels, uses his body well, and shows robust balance to stay on his feet and throw opponents off balance. While he may not physically dominate anyone, his balance, sharp agility, and long legs enable him to come out on top consistently. He is involved in 7.77 duels per match. Of these defensive duels, he wins 70.33%, with only three Allsvenskan midfielders performing better this season.



His overall technical ability is impressive. He adjusts the weight of his touches depending on the positioning and approach of opponents, giving them the impression of being able to get a tackle in before moving the ball just out of reach. After bypassing pressure from the midfield line, he can drive forward into space and pop passes into forward players.


This makes him very useful in transitioning from defense to attack, quickly getting his team through the final third of the field while the opponent is still unsettled. While his progressive passing is not particularly notable, his forward surges are valuable. He uses his dribbling expertly to break free.


Where can he improve?


Yalcouyé has some areas in which he does not excel. As mentioned earlier, he is naturally very slim and short, which means he can be physically overpowered by larger and stronger opponents. Despite his good timing and anticipation, he often faces challenges that do not work in his favor.


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His physical limitations also make it difficult for him to excel in aerial duels. Standing at just 1.69 meters, he struggles to win headers, and his aerial duels are often more about disrupting the opponent’s header than actually controlling the ball with his head.


He is generally able to play with very high intensity thanks to his impeccable timing. However, there are moments when skilled opponents outsmart him, causing him to intervene a bit too late. His tackle attempts can appear reckless in these cases, leading to fouls or leaving space behind him. As a result, he averages 1.45 fouls per match, resulting in three yellow cards in eleven matches.


When it comes to his passing, he doesn’t excel in making long passes. He only attempts 1.11 long passes per match with a concerning success rate of 23.08%. This raises questions about whether he can effectively control the game from deeper positions on the field.


One reason for this is his lack of vision, as he finds it difficult to identify opportunities to change the direction of play or locate teammates making runs behind the opposing defense. Additionally, his long passes often lack the necessary accuracy and power.



This comparison shows that Yalcouyé (far left) scores poorly regarding long passes. Data from Wyscout.


Yalcouyé is skilled at dribbling forward with the ball at his feet, but he needs to improve on finding passes to his teammates further up the field to quicken the play. He tends to make relatively few progressive passes (short & long), with only 5.55 attempts per match.


However, his success rate is relatively high at 78.46%, compared to the division average of 73.31%. This indicates that he does so effectively when he attempts to move the ball forward. His passes are generally good, especially the shorter ones, but he currently makes too few of them.


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Yalcouyé is not a significant goal threat when he shoots. He tends to rush his chances and often mishits his attempts. When he uses his stronger right foot and aims with the inside of the foot, he can get his shots on target, but they often lack accuracy and power, making it easier for the goalkeeper.


When he tries to strike with his laces, he often misses the proper connection, and his shots end up going wide of the target or lacking the necessary power to trouble the goalkeeper. Too often, he is wild when shooting, with flailing arms and a lack of balance, instead of a clean, smooth motion. Although his primary role in the team is not to score goals, improving his shooting skills would make him more dangerous when picking up second balls and arriving late at the edge of the penalty area.


Malick Yalcouyé – Shots from FootballSE24 on Vimeo.



He rarely provides the final pass and acts more as a link player, helping move the ball up the field with his runs. He often opts for safer passes to feet or out wide and cannot, like Joey Veerman, unlock the defense with a penetrating pass. Key areas for improvement include enhancing his aerial ability and finishing, creating more passing opportunities, and improving his long passes.


What’s the next step?


Looking at other players with a similar profile, combining box-to-box play, strong engine, precise control and technique, and remarkable agility, the name N’Golo Kanté comes to mind. Like Kanté, Yalcouyé is often seen as a defensive midfielder, while he is actually an all-around, proactive midfielder at his best.


Liverpool is also one of the clubs that are interested. Yalcouyé likely evokes memories of Naby Keïta. Although Keïta had more attacking qualities, the similarities in physique, agility, and movement patterns between the two players must justify the comparison.


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Despite interest from larger clubs such as Liverpool and Bayern Munich, moving to a smaller competition like the Eredivisie or Belgian Pro League would be a more sensible choice for Yalcouyé’s current development. He must improve his weaknesses before he can excel in a major competition like the Premier League or Bundesliga.


To reach the highest level, Yalcouyé needs to improve in several areas, add more variety to his game, and become less predictable. At just eighteen years old, he still has plenty of time to refine certain aspects of his play and mature physically. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that we will see Yalcouyé playing in Sweden for much longer; this much-discussed Malian “wonderkid” seems ready for a bigger stage. 


This analysis was written by Dennis Liljeberg, a Swedish football scout and analyst, and part of 360 Scouting.

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Michael Campanella / Getty Images