PARIS (AP) " After several unimpressive seasons in the French league, Bordeaux is on its way to its best result since winning the title in 2009.
In many ways, it's because of the excellent play of Brazilian attacking midfielder Malcolm. Alongside 21-year-old midfielder Valentin Vada and 20-year-old forward Francois Kamano, the versatile Malcolm has been very much at the heart of Bordeaux's revival.
With four matches left to play this season, Bordeaux is in fourth place in the league standings, one point above seven-time champion Lyon. The team is being lauded for its attacking soccer and has kept a clean sheet over its past three games. Bordeaux will be looking for a fourth consecutive win when it travels to struggling Dijon on Sunday.
The 20-year Malcolm joined Bordeaux last year during the winter transfer window from Corinthians to cover the departure of Wahbi Khazri. Capable of playing on both sides or in a center forward role, Malcolm was hired by then-coach Willy Sagnol under the advice of former Bayern Munich teammate Ze Roberto.
Ze Roberto had seen him play in the Brazilian league and had been full of praise. The least one can say is that Malcolm did not disappoint.
His technical skills, ability to find space and his explosive pace have made him a fan favorite in the southwestern French city. Las weekend, Malcolm scored his seventh goal in 33 matches in a 2-0 win over Bastia, a game during which his influence on Bordeaux's play was obvious. Against the Corsican team, he completed 83 percent of his passes and also delivered an assist for Younousse Sankhare.
"Very often when the team plays well, Malcolm plays well, too," Bordeaux coach Jocelyn Gourvennec said.
Named after Afro-American leader Malcolm X, the under-20 Brazil international has started 35 matches in all competition with Bordeaux this season. His fine performances have caught the eye of many big European clubs and he has been linked with Liverpool and Manchester United. In France, he is reportedly on the radar of Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
Malcolm joined Bordeaux for 5 million euros (about $5.5 million) and president Stephane Martin will struggle to keep him at his club for the long-term. But Bordeaux can qualify for the Europa League and Martin remains confident for next season.
"I think we can afford to keep Malcom," he said. "One can never be sure of anything but, most likely, he will be in Bordeaux next season. If someone offers to multiply his income by four or five, it will be difficult. But today we are not in that situation. Nobody has approached us."
Kamano, a Guinea international, joined Bordeaux from Bastia last year. With six goals and four assists to his name this season, he is regarded as one of the league's best prospects and has been compared to Thierry Henry for the way he gets past defenders.
"That's nice to hear because Thierry Henry was a hero of mine," Kamano said. "I used to watch him on TV when I was back in Guinea, so being compared to him is great, especially at such a young age, when there is still room for improvement."