By Mohammed Ali
In the end, Modibo Maiga got what he wanted - a dream Premier League move. Though not the switch to Newcastle the Malian had initially hoped for, Wednesday's announcement that the 24-year-old had sealed a £5 million transfer to West Ham brought to a close the player's limp end to his career in France.
In January, all seemed set for Maiga to complete a switch from Sochaux to the north east, but pressing concerns over a recurring knee problem sadly put paid to a move. The striker himself was determined to see it through amid reports of a strike, which subsequently angered Les Lionceaux and then coach Mehmed Bazdarevic after the Magpies pulled the plug.
Maiga will start the 2012-13 campaign in England, representing the Hammers, providing a stark contrast to the controversy that marred last year's season opening with the Montbeliard club, after announcing he would not turn out in the side's colours again, amid the reported interest from Newcastle.
Nevertheless, Maiga did take to the field after the transfer window closed, and even managed to score four goals in three games in September 2011. Following the match against Toulouse, Maiga insulted the fervent crowd at Stade Auguste-Bonal following accusations that he was only playing well in response to the admiring glances he was receiving from Premier League scouts.
The Mali international would subsequently fade away after yet another failed attempt to force a move to the Sports Direct Arena. Apart from a brief surge in form in March, which saw the forward score in five consecutive games to move Les Lionceaux away from the relegation zone, Maiga endured a below-par campaign.
MODIBO MAIGA | LIGUE 1 STATS
Depicting Maiga's storied rise to the Premier League, Goal.com's West African correspondent Kingsley Kobo said: "Born in Mali’s capital Bamako and brought up at Djikoroni Para, one of the poorest districts of the city, Maiga discovered street football early enough as a pastime, when his impoverished parents couldn't afford his education and that of his 14 siblings.
"He enrolled with the Stade Malien youth team at age 13 and commenced his football training there before signing for Raja Casablanca in Morocco where he played three seasons, winning the Moroccan Coupe du Trone and the Arab Champions League.
"His big break came after being discovered in 2007 by French scout Philippe Romieu, who linked him to French Ligue 2 side Le Mans, where Maiga would spend another three seasons before moving on to Ligue 1 to play for Sochaux. Maiga featured in all but one league game in 2008-09, as well as scoring just under 10 league goals on average every season.
"Although Maiga is yet to achieve the fame of compatriots former Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita and former Sevilla forward Frederic Kanoute (ironically, the only Malian to play for West Ham), the 24-year-old striker is already a source of inspiration to many youngsters back home in Mali, where football is widely seen as a means for a child to eternally escape poverty."
|"I am really happy and excited about joining West Ham. They have huge tradition and it is like joining part of a family and that is one of the main reasons I wanted to come here"
- Maiga on Upton Park switch
It was the 2010-11 season that underlined Maiga's potential to European clubs. Sochaux benefited from the innovative measures deployed by Francis Gillot, with Maiga aided by the fluid support of Marvin Martin, Ryad Boudebouz and front-line partner Ideye Brown. The pair would be liable for much of the club's success, scoring 15 goals apiece before clinching a convincing fifth place finish.
Brown would leave France for Dynamo Kiev, as Sochaux struggled. Maiga's impact in the second half of the season, where the club were mired in relegation woes saw the side eventually clawing back a 14th place finish - a testament to his ability.
What quality would he bring to east London? For starters, the sheer powerful nature of the 24-year-old, in the mould of Mamadou Niang would typically see the striker thrive in the fast-paced nature of the English game. Maiga is a player who is generally more efficient being paired with another forward but is also capable on the flanks, bringing pace to the forward line, a trait Sam Allardyce could well utilise in the club's first season back in the top flight.
Temperament aside, Maiga is an individual who is determined not to see his Premier League career descend into mediocrity, instead voicing his underlying happiness at completing a long-awaited move.
"I am really happy and excited about joining West Ham United. I know West Ham are a big club in England and I'm really looking forward to representing them." he told the club's official website.
"They have huge tradition and it is like joining part of a family and that is one of the main reasons I wanted to come here."
West Ham have fond memories of another Malian's striking exploits at the Boleyn Ground which will serve as a reminder to what Maiga himself will be hoping to achieve in the coming season and possibly give a flavour as to what Alan Pardew's Newcastle missed out on. No pressure.
Follow Mohammed Ali on