ANALYSIS: Does CanMNT striker Cyle Larin fit into RCD Mallorca picture?
After a summer of speculation, Canadian striker Cyle Larin has landed back in Spain's top flight, as he officially inked a deal with La Liga side RCD Mallorca last week.
Signed on a five-year deal through 2028, a move to Mallorca represents a huge chance at finding some much-needed stability for the 28-year-old, especially after a topsy-turvy 2022-23 campaign that saw him all but disappear at Club Brugge before turning on the burners and becoming an instant star at Real Valladolid.
Indeed, Larinismo had taken hold in Spain when he started scoring goals for fun during his loan at Valladolid – eight goals and three assists in half a season – but with the team relegated and a contract purchase option exercised, Larin was also destined for a third shirt in two years.
Having joined his new club for a fee of around €7.5 million, it’s a big signal of intent from Mallorca, yet it shows how Larin’s short stint in Spain, where he became a cult hero in Valladolid, was viewed positively by the rest of the league.
However, the real challenge now begins for the all-time top CanMNT goal-scorer. When he came to Valladolid, expectations were low.
They're not anymore.
At Mallorca, Larin's going to be expected to deliver the goods on a team that has ambitions to push up the table, bringing a different type of pressure-cooker environment to the table. With all of that in mind, here’s a look at what to expect from Larin at his new club, as he gets set for this next chapter of his career.
Building off Larinismo at Valladolid
First and foremost, the biggest expectation for Larin is to just keep doing what he did so well at Valladolid – score goals.
Despite playing just 19 games with the club, he quickly became a key focal point in their attack, finishing as the team’s leading scorer in league play by the end of the campaign.
Real Valladolid were unable to get a result away vs Real Betis, but Cyle Larin has kept ‘Larinisimo’ going in full force, scoring his 3rd goal in 4 La Liga games for the club— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) February 18, 2023
For context, he is now 2nd on the team in league goals, two off 1st#CanMNTpic.twitter.com/7rlFoPX1x8
Plus, he brought value to the table other than just through his goals and assists, too, as his hold-up play proved to be a valuable asset, especially given that Valladolid was a side that struggled to hold onto the ball.
That’s reflected in his advanced numbers from last year, as they paint a picture of how solid he truly was, even beyond the goals and assists.
Offensively, he generated 0.36 non-penalty Expected Goals (xG) and 0.37 non-penalty goals per 90 minutes, which had him in the 64th and 69th percentile among La Liga strikers, respectively. Along with 3 shots/90 (72nd percentile), 0.18 assists/90 (79th percentile), 0.16 expected assists/90 (75th percentile), and 0.52 non-penalty xG+xA/90 (75th percentile), that shows his ability to get involved offensively.
Considering that he was on a team that got relegated from La Liga, having scored the third-fewest goals in the league last year, that’s impressive, highlighting his ability to both get into the dangerous areas, as well as score and create when he got there.
Elsewhere, the other two stats that really stood out for Larin were his touches in the penalty area, as he averaged 5.45 of those per 90 minutes (74th percentile), and his aerial duels won, which he averaged 2.63/90 (72nd percentile).
What that highlights is his ability to bring the ball down out of the air, huge given Valladolid’s tendency to send it long, as well as his willingness to get into the box, where he can make things happen.
Despite those stats, however, there were a few areas of improvement for Larin from his time at Valladolid, as well. One is his passing percentage, as he completed just 68.8% of his passes, although he also attempted just over 15 passes/90, a symptom of his team’s struggles to hold onto the ball.
Usually a solid passer of the ball, one can imagine a system that puts more emphasis on ball retention and providing support to the forwards could help Larin, as that’s certainly a number he’ll look to improve on.
Then, the other one is his defensive output, as he ranked quite low in a lot of defensive stats. Given that Valladolid spent a lot of their time defending, that’s surprising, as that could’ve theoretically allowed him to have more favourable numbers (it’s easier to have higher tackle and interception numbers when you don’t have the ball, for example).
Of course, as a striker, his main objective will always be to provide offensive output, but in the modern game, it’s always nice to have a forward who can also chip in with defensive contributions if need be.
Overall, though, there was a lot to like about Larin’s play, which is why he had nearly a half-dozen La Liga clubs interested in his services, and the numbers only show why.
How does Larin fit with Mallorca?
Now at a new team, it’ll be intriguing to see what Larin’s role looks like in their attack.
At Valladolid, Larin often led the line in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, asked to play as a lone striker.
After thriving as more of a second striker and inside forward at Besiktas, it was a bit of an adjustment for Larin, who took to the different role quite well.
Having previously struggled as a lone striker with Besiktas, who tried him out in that role on a few occasions, it was positive to see Larin adjust in that way, too.
Therefore, it’ll be interesting now to see where he fits in at Mallorca. A side that finished ninth in La Liga last year, just three points off a spot in the Europa Conference League qualifiers, this is a team that will certainly provide a bit more stability than Valladolid.
Plus, it feels like this move seems tailor-made for Larin to fit in - despite their spot in the table, Mallorca had the fewest goals last year of any of the top 13 teams in La Liga, as goalscoring was a big issue for them.
Because of that, expect them to really build their attack around Larin, especially after the departure of Kang-In Lee to PSG.
Cyle Larin’s first training with the team 👹 pic.twitter.com/MaV9NDN3zH— Mallorca English (@MallorcaENG) August 4, 2023
Last year, Mallorca employed a 5-4-1 for 43% of their games, and a 5-3-2 in 18% of their games, so it’s likely they stick with some sort of back five given their overall success.
Now, however, it’ll be intriguing to see if they view the best way to deploy Larin all alone up front in that 5-4-1, choosing to go with more support in midfield, or if they choose to go with two up front in the 5-3-2, a set-up that Larin has also thrived in before.
There are different benefits to both - with the former, Larin can continue to build off what he did last year, where he showed he can lead the line with Valladolid, while with the latter, he can return to a more familiar role.
Plus, the benefit of having two strikers is that it’d allow Larin to pair with Mallorca’s 22/23 leading scorer, Vedat Muriqi, who scored 16 goals and added four assists last year across all competitions.
Able to play both as a winger and a striker, it might make the most sense to keep Muriqi centrally, especially given that he’ll be able to play off Larin.
Given that Mallorca will want to be a team that holds onto the ball more this season, averaging just under 42% of possession last year, having two outlets up front in Larin and Muriqi could help them fix that.
Either way, there’s a lot to like with this fit for Larin, which makes it exciting to see how he gets on with his new club.
Continuing to push with CanMNT
Through that, Larin will also look to remain in form for the Canadian Men’s National Team, where he remains a key pillar up front at the moment.
Still the all-time leader in goals, despite Jonathan David’s best attempts to catch him, Larin will feel that he has lots to bring as he nears his 30s.
And with Canada struggling for depth at striker, the path is clear for him to keep battling for minutes, especially if he continues to score in a top-five league, as head coach John Herdman has pushed for his players to get to those sorts of circuits to keep improving Canada’s level.
Now, however, the big question will be if Larin is able to maintain his starting role going forward. Often paired up front with David, the two have good understanding and chemistry at times, but have struggled against top opposition over the last year.
That’s hurt Canada, especially as they’ve gotten overmatched in midfield a lot in those games, making some wonder if it might be best to sacrifice one of the forwards to put in an extra midfielder.
Given David’s importance to the team, it feels like that player would be Larin in that scenario, which would certainly be harsh but perhaps a reality of Canada’s needs elsewhere on the pitch.
No matter if that happens or not, though, Larin still has a big role to play, as he pushes to be in Canada’s 2026 World Cup squad. Be it as a starter or a super sub, his goals will be valuable for Canada, and they’ll look for him to keep bringing them for years to come.
And him sticking around in La Liga for long-term instead of heading elsewhere indicates that he’s also on the same page, as he looks to build on his short but memorable time in the circuit, proving his ability to play in the top five leagues.