It’s safe to say that Malcom has made a sensible choice in making his first steps in European football in the south-west of France. Having been swamped with interest from the Old Continent’s big names – Manchester United, namely – in the days when he was leading his Corinthians to league success back in Brazil, the pressure had been on him to make the step up.
He chose wisely, opting for a club known for its success with Brazilian players arriving in Europe in Bordeaux, with the likes of Wendel, Jussie and Henrique amongst others setting out the path before him. Now, having firmly made his mark in Ligue 1, he has confirmed the promise he showed and proved that he could transpose his game onto the European scene.
He finds himself presented once again with the opportunity of moving up the ladder with notably the interest of Arsenal coming up – he must now decide for himself whether the time has come to move on, or continue to fine tune his craft in a team in which he is essentially the main man.
Bordeaux are under no illusion that Malcom considers the club anything other than a stepping stone, but, if anything, would rather keep the Brazilian at least until the end of the season. Finding themselves in a relegation battle after their early season good form faded away, the winger will be crucial to their prospects of survival. Beyond next summer, they’re already resigned to losing him – another South American prospect will no doubt be drafted in to replace him. It’s becoming increasingly clear to Jocelyn Gourvennec, though, that Malcom’s departure may have to come sooner.
In a team bereft of any attacking coherence, Malcom is essentially Bordeaux’s creator in chief as well as main attacking outlet. With such an important role already there for him, it would be understandable for him to hold off the big move for a while. It’s unlikely that he would find the same liberties at a team in the Premier League, let alone the same amount of playing time.
Whether he is able to adapt to the Premier League will depend entirely on how his future manager chooses to use him. To limit Malcom to the role of a mere touchline hugger is neglecting half of what makes him such an exciting prospect – it’s his eye for a pass as well as willingness to cut inside, his calmness on the ball and ability to bring the ball up from midfield that have caught the eye of English teams.
Of course, the old trope of the physical aspect of the Premier League will be brought up, but having endured 24 months of French football, he’s had his fair share of rough treatment from defenders. One aspect of his game which may be called into question will nonetheless be his willingness to track back. While Gourvennec may let it slide at Bordeaux, this probably won’t be the case should he go to the Premier League right now.
On the other hand, given the dire straits Arsenal find themselves in, between their poor run of form and the imminent departure of Alexis Sánchez, it would be unsurprising to find him starting straight away should he make his move this winter. Given Arsenal’s lack of options on the wing and attacking incisiveness, should Malcom be able to hit the ground running he would be the ideal solution for Wenger. In Ozil’s absences the Gunners have failed to replicate the attacks that the German has been orchestrating for the past few years in North London, and Malcom may go some way to solving that.