Malcom Continues to Produce for Bordeaux while Europe’s Elite Circle

 

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Malcom, Bordeaux’s 20-year-old Brazilian winger, has found himself in the news lately. The right-sided flyer has been linked with both Manchester United and Liverpool in the last couple of weeks, and even though the youngster claims not to know anything of those rumours, he was a little more open when talking about Jorge Sampaoli’s interest in bringing him to Sevilla. “I’m very calm, I only think about Bordeaux today. I want to do my job well and give French fans lots of joy,” he said. “I got to know, yeah, that Sampaoli likes my football, my game style. If the opportunity shows up, I’ll be happy. If it doesn’t, I’ll keep working hard, humble as always.”

It’s an interesting take from the former Corinthians prodigy, and given his age, it’s also a sensible one. Sampaoli is a big name, especially within the realms of South American football following Chile’s Copa Amercia victory under his stewardship, and any promising player from that continent, who isn’t already with a big club, would love to work with him. Equally, though, Malcom knows that he’s still a work in progress, a big talent but one who needs to refine his game. That means his primary requirement is, in his own words, to hone in on staying humble, to focus on improving with Bordeaux before any transfer should be considered seriously.

After all, Malcom only moved to Bordeaux in January 2016. He made a meagre 5 starts in Ligue 1 last season, meaning that the current campaign, 2016-17, is his first full year playing in one of Europe’s top five leagues. The promise is clearly there, as indicated by the fact that Bordeaux spent £5 million in order to bring him over from Brazil, but so too is a degree of rawness.

Still, the signs have been good. Malcom began to find his feet towards the end of last season, netting his first goal in Bordeaux colours against Lorient in the closing weeks of his first six months in France, and he used that momentum to propel himself forward. He started 2016-17 with a brilliant game against St. Etienne, where he not only stayed wide on the right to provide an excellent outlet in transition, but also highlighted his excellent set-piece taking ability with a cracking left-footed free kick to score in Bordeaux’s league opener.

That was the first of his 23 Ligue 1 starts this season, meaning he has become a fixture for Les Girondins. More than that, he’s also been a strong contributor, scoring 4 times – twice from direct free kicks – and providing two assists. It’s pretty impressive stuff for a kid who just turned 20 at the end of February, and with Bordeaux currently sitting in 5th position on the Ligue 1 ladder, it’s even more impressive that he’s established himself within a solid unit who are performing well.

In more specific terms, Malcom can broadly be classified as the modern winger, one who loves to cut inside before loading up a shot on goal. His left foot allows him to strike the ball cleanly too, as he illustrated with a crisp finish from the edge of the area against Lyon, where he hit a low, hard drive beyond the outstretched arm of Anthony Lopes to score Bordeaux’s first in an eventual 3-1 win away from home.

That goal came way back in September 2016, but Bordeaux and Lyon again faced off in the league last weekend, and Malcom again demonstrated his quality. In a lot of ways, the performance was Malcom at his most comfortable. He regularly received the ball high and wide on the right-hand side, and through a combination of his electric pace and quickness on the dribble, he soon became an asset for Bordeaux on the break. This was important for Jocelyn Gourvennec’s men, because they only had 36% of the ball against a Lyon side who monopolised possession. With that in mind, Bordeaux needed their speedsters on the outside to launch them towards the final third in transition, and with Francois Kamano on the left and Malcom on the right, they had the right guys for the job.

Kamano may have had the first big contribution, providing an assist for Valentin Vada’s opener (which should’ve been ruled out for offside), but from then on most of Bordeaux’s attack went through Malcom. He sprinted clear of the defence time and time again and, at one point, found himself charging into the right side of the penalty box. Lyon centre-back Mouctar Diakhaby came out to stop him, but with a quick drop of the shoulder and a push of the ball to the outside, Malcom breezed by him. Diakhaby responded by lunging towards the ball and bringing Malcom to ground. The stadium then turned towards the referee in anticipation of what should have been a clear-cut penalty, but instead of pointing at the spot, the official opted to book Malcom for a dive.

The decision could not be described as anything other than bizarre – the contact, after all, was obvious. Malcom didn’t let that get to him, however, and he won a free kick just outside the area only moments later, once again with a neat piece of skill. Then, in the second half, he received a pass from Vada and set about sparking yet another Bordeaux break. He moved quickly from within his own half, so much so that he made it all the way into the final third before being confronted with anyone from Lyon. Once that happened, he did the team thing, sliding a ball in behind the defence to tee up Gaetan Laborde. Laborde had his first shot blocked, but reacted quickly to seize upon the rebound. He hit his next shot more sweetly, only to see it saved by Lopes.

That was probably Bordeaux’s brightest moment after the interval, and after missing that chance, they would then go onto concede a late goal, headed in by Emanuel Mammana from a set-piece, to draw 1-1. Still, it was an excellent effort from Bordeaux. They stuck to their absorb-and-counter strategy beautifully, and with Malcom and Kamano providing the thrust in transition and Vada the passing quality to find them, they played in cohesive fashion.

Despite being unfortunate enough to concede from a late set-piece, the strong showing speaks to the fact that Gourvennec has developed a well-balanced team. Malcom is a big part of that, and against Lyon, the young Brazilian’s dynamism on the break did plenty of confirm his potential. He shoots well, takes a mean free kick and runs and dribbles with speed and directness, and it’s because of these traits that the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United are said to be circling.

For now, though, Malcom must focus on what’s immediately in front of him. Bordeaux is in contention for a European place next season, and they need Malcom to continue to produce in the coming rounds. He might eventually earn that dream move to a bigger club, and maybe even to Sampaoli’s Sevilla, but right now he is still just starting out in Europe, and Bordeaux is looking like the ideal place for him to refine his craft in the meantime.