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Transfer Target Quick Hits: Malcom

The transfer window is officially open, and that means plenty of targets on the horizon. Throughout the summer, we’ll be publishing a series of quickfire interviews on Liverpool’s prospective targets, conducted with the journalists, correspondents, and pundits who know them best.

The first of our series profiles Bordeaux’s prolific Brazilian winger Malcom, who was recently mooted as one of three potential attacking reinforcements for the Reds this summer.

Lending his insight is GFFN correspondent Eric Devin (@ericdevin_).

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Describe Malcom as a player — what are his notable strengths? Weaknesses?

Malcom is very quick, but pace is hardly his sole weapon, as he is also very good with the ball at his feet. He loves to cut inside, to match his ability on the ball against slower centre backs, rather than try to move wide and direct the attack from the wings. He has greatly improved his finishing this year, as not only his eleven goals would suggest, but also his improved statistics in terms of shots on target. He is still continuing to develop as a creative presence and is really yet to have a regular partnership in his time as a starter.

Last year, Gaetan Laborde was the striker for much of the run-in, only to be replaced by summer signing Nicolas De Préville. Now De Préville himself has been replaced by Martin Braithwaite, and the two are still feeling out their relationship. Malcom probably works best in this sense as profiting from the space created by a powerful yet intelligent striker, which could mean promising things for a potential relationship with Roberto Firmino.

As skilled as Malcom is, he is still very young, having only turned 21 in February. He can be a bit impetuous in terms of his attitude at times and has also gained a bit of a reputation as a diver. He can also be guilty of losing the ball, either through poor passing or being overly ambitious. Finishing his second full season in France, he has definitely improved on these things, but there is still work to be done for him to be at the standard Liverpool fans would want to see for the fees currently being discussed.

What kind of role does he play within Bordeaux’s system?

Under current manager Gus Poyet and previous boss Jocelyn Gourvennec, Malcom played largely on the right of a 4-3-3. Again, he likes to cut inside, and because of this, has been at his best when the central striker is more mobile. He can play centrally, as he often takes up that position naturally, but doesn’t really have the vision and outright creativity to thrive there. He has also been used at times as a winger in a 4-2-3-1, when Bordeaux are chasing matches, but this is a risky proposition in that he does very little work on the defensive end.

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Knowing Jurgen Klopp’s demands in terms of pressing, I might be wary of his potential usefulness in this regard. His weaknesses are easily camouflaged by Bordeaux’s hardworking midfield, and while Liverpool’s can be similar, the liked of Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain won’t be able to affect the match to the same extent if their concerns lie with picking up Malcom’s potential slack.

How have you seen him progress in his time at the club?

Again, his ability on the ball has definitely improved, as his decision making when it comes to passing. He has been somewhat limited in this regard by not playing with a quality striker, but that would no doubt be furthered with Liverpool. His finishing, though, has made the biggest difference, and it is because of this that I could see him being a good fit for the Reds. With Salah and Mané carrying so much of the goal-scoring load, Malcom’s abilities in this department make him a good fit.

That said, I do sense some bit of regression in the time since Gourvennec has left the club. The former Guingamp boss was far from perfect, but he definitely did well to improve Malcom. Klopp has seen the likes of Andrew Robertson and Oxlade-Chamberlain kick on as well, so perhaps that can be repeated, but there should be some caution taken here, as his scintillating form from the season’s early going has been rather muted, even as Bordeaux’s results as a team have improved.

Regarding the Liverpool links, do you see him as a good potential fit within Klopp’s system? The Premier League? Why or why not?

I am on the fence on this, to be quite honest. Malcom is a superb finisher, and quick, which is in line with what Mané and Salah bring to the table, but I have serious doubts about his ability to be the complete type of player that Klopp expects from his attackers.

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He is also not the most physically robust, which could also be cause for concern. This isn’t to suggest he couldn’t have a role in the Premier League, period, but that he may take a year or more to really reach his potential, simply because of the more physical demands of the way football is played in England. He could be great value, but I think for now it is simply too hard to say; it would depend on the player’s willingness to improve, as there is something currently of Ligue 1 not demanding enough of him.

Do you expect him to leave Bordeaux? If so, where do you believe to be the most likely destination?

I do expect him to leave Bordeaux this summer; the fees being quoted for him are in the neighborhood of €50M, and if Bordeaux were to reinvest even half of that, they would give themselves a good chance at challenging the top three in France.

I think he makes the most sense for Bayern Munich; Arjen Robben has renewed his contract, but is no younger, and Malcom offers a similar dynamic in his ability to play as an inverted winger. Spurs and Arsenal have also been linked, but with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lucas Moura joining those sides, it’s hard to see how Malcom would be afforded any significant opportunities in the near future. At Bayern, he would play regularly enough, with Robben likely to be saved for Champions’ League matches and the biggest league encounters.

Alex Mansfield
Co-owner, editor-in-chief of LFC Transfer Room. @el_mansfield on Twitter. Love a good, civilized debate!

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