Bordeaux winger Francois Kamano has enjoyed a breakout year for the Ligue 1 outfit, during which he has scored 15 goals, including eight already this season.
Indeed, he had a key role to play in the club’s qualification for the Europa League this term, arguably outperforming Malcom – now of Barcelona – as they charged up the league standings under Gus Poyet, who the winger worked hard to win over after initially being a substitute under the Uruguayan.
Such form has only accelerated in the early weeks of the current campaign, with Eric Bedouet, the spokesperson for the club’s coaching staff, having hailed both the quality and consistency of the 22-year-old.
“He’s on a cloud right now,” he explained in October. “We’ve seen him go on streaks like this before, but now he’s doing it consistently. He’s taken a step up in his career. It’s not easy to play games of this value over an extended period of time.”
The secret to success? Renewed trust in his ability and a determination to succeed.
“It’s time to grow up,” he told L’Equipe in August, explaining that to get the most from his game, he should not be pinned down to too much tactical detail.
“If I’m told to do something, I listen, but at some point it’s up to me to feel the game. Last year, because I was being told: ‘As soon as you have the ball, you have to do this,’ I lost my way a little.
“We have to stop believing that football’s an exact science, that 1+1=2. On the field, it’s up to me. I’m the one playing. Now, I trust my instincts.”
There have already been several highlights for the Conakry-born player so far this season, but perhaps the best example of what he is capable of came in Guingamp, where he scored a goal that typifies so much in his game.
He arrived in a timely fashion to support the forwards on a quick break, cut inside off his left flank onto his stronger right foot, taking out three defenders in the process, and with them in his wake fired a shot into the net via the underside of the bar.
“He’s got a habit of scoring goals like that,” Bedouet admitted after the game. “He’s got quality, which we know and he knows, too. When he does something like that, when he can beat a goalkeeper like that, it’s extra ordinary.”
Little wonder, then, that big European clubs are starting to take a note of a player who has shone for the duration of the year.
Atletico Madrid have been associated with a swoop for the winger, whose numbers stack up favourably against Malcom, who moved to Barcelona in the summer for a fee of €41m.
The Brazilian had scored seven goals by the winter break last term, which is a figure that Kamano has already eclipsed, though admittedly he trails 4-0 on the assist front.
Initially, he made a slow start at the club after arriving as a 20-year-old from Bastia, who had picked him up from Satellite FC in his homeland after he had trials with the likes of Villarreal and Rennes. During his first 18 months, he scored only seven league goals, burdened by the tag of being the next Thierry Henry.
“That's nice to hear because he was hero of mine," Kamano told beIN Sports in 2017. “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.”
Former coach Jocelyn Gourvennec believes, however, such comparisons are off the mark.
“Henry had a different style. Francois is more of a powerful player, but he manages to go past players like Henry used to,” he said.
With his contract up in 2020, Bordeaux’s new owners will soon have a big decision to make regarding the future of one of their leading assets. Their intention, though, is that he will go nowhere.
“If a player comes to us with an excellent offer, says it’s a great opportunity for him and it’s great for Bordeaux, we’ll talk,” Hugo Varela, who has taken charge of the sporting side of the club, admitted to 20Minutes. “Our intention is always to keep our best players, but we also understand that we can’t keep them if they don’t want to stay.
“We love him and he’s still young. We want to know what he wants.”
If Bordeaux can pin down this fast-rising star on a long-term basis, it could be one of the best pieces of business in their history.