French Connection: Maja aiming for the Champions League at Bordeaux

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The English striker has just completed a move to the Ligue 1 club, where hopes are high he can develop as Malcom and Francois Kamano have before him

“Why would Josh Maja sign for Bordeaux?” ex-Sunderland striker Kevin Philipps asked Sky Sports’ ‘The Debate’ program on Friday.

Three days later, as he was being unveiled as the Ligue 1 side’s newest signing, and the 20-year-old Londoner, who scored 15 goals in 24 League One games for Jack Ross’ side, gave his answer.

“I don’t think going to the Premier League now is the best choice at this point in my career,” he explained, acutely aware at how easy local talent can be lost in England’s top flight and doubtless reflecting upon the successful experiences of the likes of Reiss Nelson and Jadon Sancho, who have both cut their teeth impressively abroad, albeit in the Bundesliga.

Celtic, West Ham and Tottenham were all interested in the much-discussed youngster, but the opportunity he elected to pick was a foreign one, with Bordeaux reportedly completing his signing for around €4 million before bonuses.

“Here, I’ll be offered the opportunity to play but if I signed for a Premier League club, I wouldn’t have that guarantee," he said. "Maybe I’d gone on loan somewhere or I would have played in the reserves, so this was the right thing to do.”

Josh Maja 2018-19

He might not have played a league game for his new club yet, but he has impressed those around the team with his maturity and his thoughtfulness.

No doubt, he will have been told of the development of players such as Malcom, who is now at Barcelona, and Francois Kamano, who is being linked to the likes of Monaco, Atletico Madrid and AC Milan after three years on France’s west coast.

Maja will also have been told about the patience that the club showed with respect to both players. Neither exploded immediately, but were given time to first settle, then improve, and finally burst into the wider consciousness. Nigeria international Samuel Kalu is currently being given similar treatment.

Maja, who also has Nigerian roots, is slightly different from those who have gone before him in that he is a pure centre forward and will find himself competing for a role in attack alongside seasoned veteran Jimmy Briand and burly Dane Andreas Cornelius, who is at the club on loan from Atalanta.

Earning game time immediately will be tough in light of such competition, but Bordeaux have backed him in the medium to long term and it is in the club’s interests that the his game is allowed to develop gradually over the second half of the season.

This is the process they used to extract the most from Malcom before left for Barcelona and it is a ploy they are set to utilise once more. As such, it is a calculated gamble from both parties.

“I know Ligue 1 is a tough league, but when you’re an attacker you have to take risks,” Maja said. “Part of my game is risk taking, and when I’m a success, people will see it was the best thing for me to come to Bordeaux.”

Josh Maja of Sunderland is challenged by Sido Jombati of Wycombe Wanderers

His strengths, too, would seem to dovetail nicely both with what Bordeaux require and what is necessary to be a successful No.9 in France’s top flight.

“I love scoring goals and when there’s a chance, most of the time I take it,” he added. “I think that’s my main strength. I’m powerful, I think I have good control, I’m effective at taking the ball and I can dribble.”

And as for his long-term targets, these replicate the sense of self-assurance that he carries.

“It’s my dream to play in the Champions League and it’s a dream I can accomplish here,” he smiled. “Let’s hope I get the chance.”

It has been nearly a decade since Bordeaux reached the quarter-finals of the competition, notably sweeping away Bayern Munich en route, but it is those days that Maja hopes to return to the club.

Currently 12th in the standings, it is not a change that is about to happen overnight. Lucky, then, that both he and his employers are in this for the long haul.

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