Why Bordeaux star Malcom is the heir to Ribery and Robben at Bayern
As Arjen Robben limped out of Bayern Munich’s 2-1 defeat against Real Madrid on Wednesday night only minutes after the fixture started, the Dutchman might have been forgiven for thinking that it might have been his last shot at European glory.
The 34-year-old, who won the Champions League with Bayern in 2012-13, scoring a dramatic late winner to secure a 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund, will see his contract expire at the Allianz Arena in June. After nine years of service to the German giants, his time is growing short.
Robben was, for close to a decade, an incessant menace in the Bayern side, playing in tandem with Franck Ribery, one year his senior but signed for the Bavarians two years earlier. The Frenchman, too, will soon be out of contract, leaving FCB to seek replacements.
No doubt they are scouring the globe for talent, but one player that they have previously admitted an interest in is Bordeaux winger Malcom.
Speaking to Sport Bild in March, interim head coach Jupp Heynckes confirmed: “He's certainly in the focus of our scouting department, like many other players as well.”
Although the messages over the Brazilian have become foggier in recent weeks, perhaps due to the lingering uncertainty over who will be coaching the team next season, the 21-year-old has proven a player worthy of examination.
His highlight reel this season makes impressive viewing, as the former Corinthians youngster possesses the happy habit of scoring spectacular goals. He has nine in total in the league, while he has laid on a further six assists for a team that has been rather erratic over the course of the season.
Malcom has been the man to carry them. At times it has proven an onerous responsibility for a young man still relatively new in a foreign country, and in the second half of the campaign, as transfer speculation has built, his level has dipped below where he would have wished.
“It’s a moment that I’m not playing well, quite average,” he admitted frankly to RMC a month ago, having reportedly been the subject of overtures from Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal and Tottenham.
But at his best, there is no doubting what he can do.
A slippery dribbler, he has become best known for his ability to gather the ball on the right wing, cut inside and fire powerful shots into the net.
He carries with him the stereotypical Brazilian joie de vivre but has proven more adaptable to the European lifestyle than many of his countrymen. And while he is ambitious, he has been careful not to rush, suggesting that he has the mental side of his game correct.
“He’s always joyful, vibrant and full of energy, you can see it on a daily basis,” former head coach Jocelyn Gourvennec agreed. “He’s the translator for his new Brazilian team-mates!
“The rumours around him have not affected him at all because, although he’s a young boy, he’s very mature and knows how to be decisive, when you can laugh and when you have to work. He’s always had that in him and he will always have it.”
There is still some uncertainty over whether Malcom is better suited to a long-term future on the wing or as a No.10, but given the success Bayern have had over the years with Robben, a player of similar profile, this is unlikely to be a factor decisive against him going to Germany.
Certainly, both the player and the club are in agreement that this season should be his last at Stade Matmut-Atlantique.
"Bayern is one of the biggest clubs in the world and it would be a dream to play there one day," Malcom told Sky Germany.
"It makes me happy that they are thinking about me. I will keep working hard to improve and, who knows, a transfer to Munich might become reality soon.
"I think that time has come. I worked well here and I am thankful to Bordeaux.
"But I need a new challenge and have new goals.”
And Bordeaux are willing to sell, should they receive a suitable offer.
“There is a major Brazilian player who you know he wants to leave the club and we will do it with respect to our interests,” Nicolas de Tavernost, president of the M6 company that owns the club, said.
“We first bought this player to develop him and then sell him in the offseason.”
Given Bordeaux only have one player who fits this description, it was an admission that a deal will be done.
Make no mistake, Bayern would not be signing a player at the level of a Ribery or a Robben, but they would be adding a player who boasts a similar profile to the Dutchman, not least in the manner he scores his goals. And, crucially, he has the potential to get to that dizzying level, if it can be properly harnessed.
The era of ‘Robbery’ is over, and Malcom offers a fine starting point for a new age to begin.