Malo Gusto has already earned praise for his handling of Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar and there is a lot more to come from the Lyon full-back — ligue1.com turns the spotlight on the latest prodigy to roll off the prolific production line at OL's youth academy.
Born almost within sight of the Groupama Stadium in the Lyon suburb of Décines-Charpieu, Gusto — who is of Portuguese descent like Anthony Lopes — joined OL in 2016 at the age of 13. He worked his way through the youth academy, featuring in the club's run to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Youth League in 2019/20.
After watching four first-team Ligue 1 Uber Eats matches from the substitutes' bench, Gusto made his senior debut in quite a game: the 5-0 derby win over Saint-Etienne in Round 21 last season having signed his maiden professional contract in December 2020. He was on the pitch for just a minute, an achievement he matched in the 4-1 victory over Lorient later in the 2020/21 campaign as he took his first tentative steps with the big boys.
Style of play
If we're picking apart his game, who better to ask than the man himself to describe his style? "Rather attacking, punchy, powerful, fast, technically adept. And I think those are the qualities that a modern fullback should have today. I know I still have to work on my defensive positioning and tracking back."
After penning an extension through to 2024 in June, Gusto got his opportunity in pre-season with new coach Peter Bosz on the lookout to reinforce his options at right-back with France international Léo Dubois his first and only ready-made choice in the role.
In the space of two friendlies — against UEFA Champions League participants Wolfsburg and Villarreal — Gusto and another youngster, Castello Lukeba — caught Bosz's eye.
"Those two players are real talents, they played really well," said the former Ajax, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen tactician, who was appointed this summer to replace Rudi Garcia. "The youngsters who came on, for only 15 minutes, surprised me a bit. They really played well and I told them so in the dressing room."
With Dubois moved to left-back, Gusto started the Round 1 draw against Brest, and has since been named in Bosz's starting XI on a further two occasions. It says a lot about the faith the Dutchman has in the youngster's abilities that he picked him to mark Neymar in the Round 6 game against Paris Saint-Germain.
If the Brazilian won a penalty in a tussle with the youngster, it was Gusto who was generally considered to have had the better of their mano a mano duel.
What you didn't know
Gusto didn't set out to become a full-back — who does? — and like so many others started out on the pitch elsewhere. "At first, I was just brought in to the U17 side to make up the numbers and the coach put me at right-back," explained Gusto, who was a defensive midfielder before arriving at OL. "And the coach hasn't really moved me since."
What he said
"It's been a huge source of pride for me and my family. I have been waiting for this moment since I was little. But this is only the beginning, I have to keep working, this is only one step. I know I can do more… Once you sign this contract, you have to be serious about everything you do, whether it's on or off the pitch. It’s very important if you want to be a great player." After signing his first pro deal
What they said
"Malo had a great game. Towards the end of the first half, I said to myself, 'He's not going to get to half-time going at 100 miles-an-hour like that', because he was everywhere." Bosz on Gusto's performance against PSG