Waking up before their afternoon kick-off against Nice, Bordeaux fans were dealt a blow to find out their star player, Brazilian forward Malcom, had been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United.
In truth, the news would’ve be no surprise to the Girondins fans; Malcom is their superstar. And even though the club have struggled for the majority of the campaign, the Brazilian, who is also a Liverpool transfer target, has been their saving grace.
“Often, when Malcom plays well, the team is good,” admitted his coach, Jocelyn Gourvennec, in December.
In just his second Ligue 1 campaign, Malcom has grown into a very exciting player. He ended last term with seven goals and five assists, this season, however, he has upped the ante, registering similar numbers after just 17 games.
Transfer rumours have been on the cards as early as the third game of the season. Playing away at Lyon, Bordeaux were 3-1 down until Malcom sparked into life.
His first goal had an element of luck. His initial free-kick came off the wall only for the 20-year-old to smash the rebound towards goal. It needed a deflection, but four minutes before the break, they were back in the game.
Then, with time winding down, the assistant referee indicated there would be a couple of minutes injury-time to play. Malcom did the rest.
Cutting in from the right, he sped past the OL defenders, linking up with his team-mates as he made his way across the pitch.
He ended up receiving the ball in a yard of space, he took a touch before firing an unstoppable 25-yard striker into the top corner.
— ♠ Nell ♠ (@Clamp_trc) September 2, 2017
No matter your team, it’s the type of goal which gets any football fan of their feet in an instant.
Rather than just being a one off, both Saint-Etienne and Dijon have felt suffered similar fates. They left Malcom with too much time and were punished by a combination of power, finesse and quality.
Have you met @girondins's Malcom?
— Football Whispers (@FB_WHISPERS) December 1, 2017
The latest reports are not the first time he has been linked with a move to the Premier League, and he showed maturity and poise when asked about a possible departure.
“This thing about Liverpool (and) Manchester…I don’t know anything about it,” said the 20-year-old. “I’m very calm, I only think about Bordeaux today. I want to do my job well and give French fans lots of joy.”
“If the opportunity shows up, I’ll be happy. If it doesn’t, I’ll keep working hard, humble as always.”
Due to Bordeaux’s poor position in the table – they’re just two points outside the relegation zone – they may be a little more vulnerable to the advances of United, as they look to the future.
If the trust is still there, Gourvennec may benefit from the funds Malcom would bring, helping the coach build a stronger team.
Bringing a wide threat to United’s attack
Like you would expect from any young Brazilian winger, Malcom loves to hug the touchline and thrives on standing defenders up, inviting them into a challenge and then skipping past them at the last moment.
Playing on the right of a 4-2-3-1, what he does well is stretch a backline. When moves build down the left, rather than come inside through the centre, he hangs as wide as possible, waiting for the switch of play.
Once the long ball comes in, if the defence back off, he is not afraid to fire from range. But what makes him a bigger threat is his drive and change of pace, which allows him to go around defenders with ease.
What would be of great use to Mourinho is that he has the positional sense to pop up at the back post and get on the end of crosses. More than just a flash winger, he has real predatory instincts.
Playing against Bastia, it’s the Brazilian who cuts inside off the flank to start the attack. With several defenders in his way, he decides to spread the play wide and picks out the left-back.
Not one to stand and admire his work, Malcom then makes his move towards goal.
By the time the ball is played back to the outside of the box, the Brazilian has placed himself on the blindside of the opposition left-back and is ready to pounce.
Younousse Sankhare picks out the left-footed pass and Malcom is there at the back post to volley home the finish. It demonstrates his movement and an understanding of space which some wingers never develop.
Malcom Opens up space
Too many wingers, when playing on the opposite flank, have one thing on their mind; come inside, get the ball on their stronger foot and shoot.
With as dangerous a left-foot as Malcom has, nobody could blame him if he did just that. However, he’s shown a much smarter edge to his game.
From the graphics above, you’d be forgiven to think that he’s shaping to unleash a shot, and after gaining a reputation for the remarkable, you wouldn’t put it past him.
But Malcom sees the runs from his team-mates and fakes to shot before chipping a lovely ball over the defence.
Gaetan Laborde meets the pass and if it wasn’t for a bad first touch, Bordeaux would’ve scored. It was wonderful invention from the Brazilian and showed that he can spot and pick up his team when in a better position.
After taking some time to find his feet in France, it clear with every game he has become more comfortable in his surroundings and his importance to Bordeaux.
Once again this term, his numbers have jumped up, showing an understanding of his role and the ability he has.
The only area his numbers have gone down this year is attempted tackles. This will be down to the formation change and Malcom’s position as a forward, not having to cover back as much.
In France, when defenders are bringing you down, you know you’ve made it. Eden Hazard was the most fouled player in Ligue 1 before he moved to Chelsea, and with his threat identified, Malcom is receiving the same treatment.
Many Ligue 1 stars have jumped across the channel in recent years, from the above-mentioned Hazard, to Alexandre Lacazette, N’Golo Kante, and Tiemoué Bakayoko.
Results have been mixed, but if the plus side is the Chelsea forward or the former Leicester City championship winning midfielder, the benefits are there to see.
United are building a core of exciting young forwards, if you add Malcom to Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, not only do you give them competition, but you bring a balance to the forward-line.
You could say it’s too early for the Brazilian to make the jump, but without taking risk, there’s no way to know if you are ready. He survived the jump from Brazil to Ligue 1, the next stop maybe the Premier League.