Premier League

Malcom: Ligue 1’s Most-Wanted

 • by Ryan Baldi
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Although the January transfer window rarely produces many big-money deals, the winter window of 2018 proved everyone wrong, with the likes of Alexis Sánchez, Philippe Coutinho and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang moving.

One of the big surprises of the window, though, was that highly coveted Bordeaux winger Malcom stayed put.

The 20-year-old Brazilian was believed to be Manchester United’s transfer target, while Tottenham Hotspur were also rumoured to be weighing up a bid, and reports also suggested Arsenal entered the fray for the youngster.

Despite that interest, the Brazilian stayed at Bordeaux, but he’s since come out and admitted he wanted to leave.

“I wanted to leave, I tell the truth,” Malcom said to Telefoot.

“It’s my dream to progress in my career. I spoke with the president, he told me that he knew it was my dream, but that he needed me. I told him he could count on me until the end [of the season].”

Who is Malcom?

Beginning his career with Corinthians in his homeland, Malcom was tipped for a bright future in the game from an early age and starred for Brazil at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2015, helping the Seleção reach the final before losing to Serbia.

His big break in Europe came in January 2016 when he was snapped up by Bordeaux. Still in his teens, the young attacker quickly stood out as a prospect with elite potential, impressing with his skill, invention and work-rate.

Last season, his first full campaign with the club, Malcom scored seven times in 37 Ligue 1 games, a return he has already matched in just 20 appearances this term.

Starting predominantly in the right side of Les Girondins’ attack, the left-footed 20-year-old is also able to operate centrally as a No.10 or wide on the left. Malcom’s profile has risen exponentially this season thanks to his penchant for the spectacular, catching the eye with a string of stunning long-range goals and outrageous pieces of individual skill.

“You have to attack your full-back, really go at him,” the youngster said when describing his style as a 17-year-old. “I have always looked to do that, like Robinho and Neymar do.”

What are Malcom’s main strengths?

Without question, Malcom’s main strength is his unpredictability. Although his predominant tendency when stationed on the right wing is to come inside on to his left foot, he does so in various manners, always keeping the opponents guessing, and is can also go round the outside and cross well with his right foot when the time calls.

Blending attributes associated with a conventional winger – speed, dribbling technique and crossing ability – with the instincts of a No.10 – an aye for a killer pass and an inventive spark – the Brazilian is a fully equipped attacking Swiss army knife.

As such, Malcom presents a real conundrum for opposing defenders: do they get tight and risk being turned, or do they give him space at the risk of seeing a trademark 35-yard rocket nestle into the top corner?


Here, in a recent game against Dijon, we see Malcom cutting inside from the right with four opponents backing off, looking to keep numbers behind the ball and block off the Bordeaux star’s passing options.


But Malcom quickly makes the Dijon men regret their approach by rifling a breathtaking shot beyond the desperate grasp of the goalkeeper, scoring from a range from which shooting would be inconceivable to most players.


This time, at home to Nantes, we see the away side take the opposite approach, aiming to put pressure on Malcom as soon as he receives he ball near the touchline.


This method of defending proves equally ill-conceived, however, as Malcom simply rolls away from the close attention of his marker before cutting inside and drawing another defender toward him.

The gravitational pull of his attacking threat attracts opponents, opening space for team-mates which the ex-Corinthians youngster is adept at exploiting, just as he does here with a neat through-ball.


So you show him on to his weaker side and confine him to the wide zones, right? Well, even then, Malcom has the pace and trickery to create space for himself and is perfectly capable of delivering with his right foot, just as he does in the above image, taken from a game against Montpellier this season.

While Malcom’s return of six assists so far this season is not a hugely impressive number in itself, and his 2.6 key passes per 90 does not rank in the top ten in Ligue 1, it must be remembered that he isn’t playing for a Champions League contender.

And even surrounded by inferior players, he has an expected assists (xA) return of 6.89, which suggests the general quality of the chances he has created has not been matched by his team-mates’ finishing.

What are Malcom’s main weaknesses?

If he were to move to the Premier League, Malcom might be expected to up his defensive productivity. The Brazilian is the star of the show at the Stade Matmut Atlantique, and as such, former manager Jocelyn Gourvennec, before being sacked in January, constructed a system which magnifies the youngster’s attacking gifts and limits his workload without the ball.

A switch to Spurs, for instance, would mean the 20-year-old would have to become accustomed to operating within Mauricio Pochettino’s high-pressing system. At Manchester United, he would be required to diligently track back when out of possession, as is demanded of any wide player in a José Mourinho team.

However, there is no suggestion Malcom would not be able to adapt in such scenarios. Indeed, last season the former Corinthians man was producing more tackles (one to 0.3) and blocked passes (0.7 to 0.4) per 90 than his numbers for this term, playing in a slightly deeper position.

Key stats

Malcom stats

How much would Malcom cost?

Reports in January suggested Spurs lodged a £31million opening bid for the Bordeaux star, but those claims have since been denied in many sections of the press.

Signed for around €5million in January 2016, Les Girondins stand to make a healthy profit when they eventually decide to cash in on Malcom, and they might struggle to resist offers in the region of £45million, especially with the Brazilian admitting he wanted to leave in January.

Why Premier League clubs should sign Malcom

In an era of eye-watering transfer market spending, with the Premier League’s biggest and best clubs battling to snare the latest superstar to have shot to fame at home or on the continent, the wisest operators will seek an advantage by identifying the next big thing and signing them before their value skyrockets.

Malcom would fit that billing perfectly. Although there is an inherent jump up in competitive level when moving from Ligue 1 to England’s top flight, and the Brazilian would not come without risk, the young attacker appears to have all the tools to thrive in the Premier League and reach the heights of such former French football standouts as Eden Hazard, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kanté.