Malick Fofana is a Belgian winger who signed for Lyon from Gent in the January transfer window in 2024. The eighteen-year-old had caught the eye competing in the Belgian Pro League over the previous eighteen months, convincing Lyon to shell out €17 million to secure his services.
Born in Aalst, in East Flanders, to a father of Guinean descent, Malick Fofana spent the early part of his youth career with local clubs such as FCV Dender EH and Eendracht Aalst before joining Gent as a nine year old. He would go on to spend the best part of a decade on the books of ‘The Buffalos’, as they are known.
Having progressed through the ranks, Fofana signed his first professional contract with Gent in January 2022, a couple of months before his seventeenth birthday. By then, he had already represented Belgium at Under-15 level, and been promoted to their Under-17 squad. Indeed, he helped the Red Devils qualify for the 2022 UEFA European U-17 Championships in Israel, scoring four goals along the way, but only played a small role in the finals as Belgium went out at the group stage.
First Team Debut in the Super Cup
A couple of months later, at the start of the 2022-23 season, Malick Fofana made his senior debut for Gent in the Belgian Super Cup. Gent were there in their capacity as Belgian Cup holders, and they faced reigning champions Club Brugge at the latter’s Jan Breydel Stadium. Unfortunately Gent went down 1-0 to a 39th minute goal from Denmark’s Andreas Skov Olsen as Fofana looked on from the bench. He had to wait until the fifth minute of added time for a taste of the action, when he replaced Gent captain Sven Kums, and he was unable to alter the result with his late cameo.
Fofana made his first appearance in the Julipiler Pro League, Belgium’s top division, later that month, and his first start came in a 2-1 win at home to Westerlo in August 2022. However, he spent the majority of the next few months playing for Jong Gent, the club’s development squad, in the third tier of Belgian football.
Come January 2023 he was deemed worthy of a regular place in the first team squad and started to feature in most games as Gent chased Europa Conference League qualification, which they eventually achieved via the play-offs. He was also heavily involved in Gent’s run to the Europa League quarter-finals, where they lost to West Ham.
Malick Fofana ended the 2022-23 season with 33 senior club appearances to his name, and a solitary goal, which came against Cercle Brugge in the Belgian Cup. He also progressed to the Belgian national Under-18 team and even picked up a cap for the Under-20s, all of which earned him a contract extension from Gent in summer 2023.
A big money move to Lyon
The 2023-24 campaign was the first that Fofana began as an established first-teamer. He played primarily down the left flank for Gent, and occasionally at centre-forward, as the team hovered around third spot in the table and progressed from their Conference League group. He added four goals and six assists to his career tally in the first half of the season and stepped up to the Belgian Under-21s before Lyon snapped him up in early January.
Malick Fofana’s Lyon debut came as a substitute in a 3-1 defeat at Le Havre in Ligue 1, but he got his first start five days later in the sixth round of the Coupe de France. He scored the opening goal in a 2-1 win against Bergerac and retained his place for the following match against Rennes. However, that one didn’t go so well and he was substituted at half-time with Lyon trailing 3-0, having struggled at left wing-back.
Lyon made five other signings during that January 2024 transfer window, so Fofana faces stiff competition for a starting role. He’s still an inexperienced and raw talent and it remains to be seen whether he’s ready to hold down a starting place or be used more as an impact substitute during the remainder of this season. One thing is for sure, however, and that’s that his rise over the past eighteen months has been meteoric. If he continues to progress at a similar rate then he has a bright future ahead of him.