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Malcom: The little-known Brazilian lighting up the French Ligue 1

Thursday 21st September 2017
When you think of Brazilians in the French Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain's superstar trio, Neymar, Thiago Silva and Dani Alves quickly come to mind. But in the south-west lies another. Malcom is quietly setting the French top flight alight.

Bordeaux pulled off a couple of impressive coups in the transfer window this summer. Aware their flabby wallet wasn't buoyant enough to allow them to compete with the likes of PSG and AS Monaco, Les Girondins resorted to haggle buys. Among other astute signings, Nicolas de Preville and Jonathan Cafu were brought in from Lille and Ludogorets Razgrad respectively to buff up their utterly frail attack.

But perhaps, their best piece of business was holding onto coveted winger, Malcom. He may not have been the most popular youngster in France last season. Obviously, that tag belongs to Kylian Mbappe. Nor was he near any of the 18-year-old's former attacking teammates. Yet, Malcom could still brag to be the best outside the top four. His assured performances for Bordeaux sent red alerts to top European sides with the 20-year-old insisting on staying put at Matmut Atlantique.

Born in Sao Paulo, Malcom began his footballing conquest at his childhood side, Corinthians, aged 10. After several years on the fringes, the zippy forward finally shot to fame in the Copinha, Brazil's premier youth football tournament, before being handed first-team opportunities by Mano Menezes. He went on to make 51 appearances for Timão, playing a key role in their Serie A triumph in 2015.

Unlike many young South American footballers, Malcom has never been scared of risking his neck. His move to France affirmed just that. Aged 18, the forward departed his friends and family in search of European glory. His sojourn, however, turned sour after he failed to immediately hit the ground running. But that diminished the last term where he notched nine goals as Bordeaux finished in a respectable sixth place.
But it seems as though Malcom has taken his game to an all-new-level this season.  In six matches, the yet-to-be-capped Seleção star has found the back of the net three times, produced three assists and earned a further four Man of the Match awards. Put in context, he's been directly involved in six of the 10 goals scored by Jocelyn Gourvennec's side, still unbeaten in the league.

Yet, it's not about the bare statistics, but the nature of his game-changing moments of genius that has got tongues wagging. Malcom single-handedly took Toulouse to the cleaners on Friday, a game already seemed like heading for a stalemate. As important as that strike may be for the south-west club, it doesn't rank near the 20-year-old's best. Not even this season. Against Lyon, Malcom showed unpredictability, astounding skill, pace and vision to bury a last-minute 30-yard blockbuster.

An uncommon set of traits among footballers today, but Malcom has got them all to himself. Perhaps, slight tactical tweak from Gourvennec could be responsible for his blistering form. Always known for his explosive pace and Duracell-bunny energy, the 20-year-old appears to have added an extra impetus to his game playing in a free role this campaign.

On Saturday, Malcom comes up against his more famous compatriots when Bordeaux visit  PSG. Another stunning display from the 20-year-old will further shut his critics; while bringing him closer to international prominence with the Samba Boys.
Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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