Mama Samba Baldé was born in Bissau, the capital of the former Portuguese colony of Guinea-Bissau in West Africa, but he moved to Portugal aged six and played his junior football in the youth teams of Sintrense, from the historic town of Sintra, not far from Lisbon.
He was picked up by Sporting Clube in the summer of 2013, a few months shy of his eighteenth birthday, and soon began to make appearances for the B team in the Segunda Liga. Able to play as a centre-forward, or on either flank, he spent five years in the reserve team setup at Sporting, making over fifty appearances, but rarely getting his name on the scoresheet.
His time at Sporting was punctuated by loan spells at Benfica Castelo Branco, in the third tier, and twice at Desportivo Aves in the Primeira Liga, where he started to score on a regular basis and make a name for himself.
Move to France
In the summer of 2019, Baldé finally moved away from Sporting on a permanent basis, signing for French outfit Dijon for €665,000. That move came a month after he had earned his first international cap for Guinea-Bissau, coming on as a substitute in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Cameroon. He now has twenty caps and two goals to his name for the national team.
Playing in Ligue 1, primarily down the right or in the centre, Baldé scored thirteen times over the course of two seasons at Dijon as they finished 16th in 2019-20 but a rock-bottom 20th the following campaign and dropped back into Ligue 2.
However, Baldé didn’t stick around for a taste of the French second division. Instead, he negotiated a move to nearby Troyes, newly promoted to Ligue 1, for €3.5 million and remained a top flight player. He only managed a paltry three goals in his first season with them, as they finished a respectable 15th in the table, but was more prolific in 2022-23, bagging a dozen goals. Unfortunately his personal improvement wasn’t mirrored by the team and he ended that campaign with another relegation on his CV as Troyes finished a lowly 19th.
Olympique Lyonnais come calling
Once again, however, Mama Baldé managed to dodge the drop down a division. This time he was picked up by Lyon on loan just two days before the summer 2023 transfer window closed. The deal includes an obligation to make the move permanent for €8 million in a year’s time.
Now aged twenty-seven, he made his debut for Lyon in the recent 4-1 home defeat to PSG, coming on for Tino Kadewere at half time and again came off the bench in the following match against Le Havre. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to force his way into the Lyon first team or will be mainly used as an impact substitute. Strong, fast and direct, he has some of the attributes that have been distinctly lacking from the Lyon front line of late.