His name was not on the card when Nigeria was warming up for the international friendly game against Ukraine in September. Fate, however, played a big role in his invitation for the match after visa served as a hindrance to some Super Eagles stars for the Dnipro Arena showdown. The German Manager had to draft in Bordeaux striker, Josh Maja to the fold. Four months down the line, the England-born has made a huge impression on the Franco-German tactician
When on December 3, Josh Maja smashed in a fine hat-trick and an assist in Bordeaux 6-0 drubbing of Nimes to take his goals haul to five in eight matches, making him one of the most decisive Nigerian players in Europe’s top five leagues, little did he know he had caught the attention of Super Eagles manager, Gernot Rohr, after he last appeared for the team in September against Ukraine and his direction had not been looked at since then.
”He was on our list of players to watch, he was already attracting our attention, although he was only playing in League One because our scouts were studying him closely from England,” Rohr told So Foot.
“He seized his chance with the various injuries of his teammates and his hat-trick is part of the progression he displays.
“And when he arrived in Bordeaux, he was not alone: there was another Nigerian, Samuel Kalu. So his integration, carried out in good working conditions and surrounded by good staff, was facilitated.
”It could only move in the right direction. Above all, he is quite versatile, on the offensive side: he can play at the three front positions, in a system with two or three attackers.”
“I feel good, I’m very happy to get my first hat-trick for Boardeaz and in my career,” the Nigerian international said in a video shared on Twitter by Bordeaux.
“Of course, it’s a good night for the team as we picked up three points. We performed very well, so we are going to keep working and prepare for the next game,” Maja said after the game.
However, it was not only Rohr that Maja has warmed himself to as Chelsea are weighing up a move for Bordeaux forward Josh Maja as Frank Lampard wants to add more competition for Tammy Abraham.
Maja, 20, left Sunderland for France in January after rejecting a new deal and has impressed the Chelsea boss who is looking to bolster his attacking options.
Although the youngster has only started five matches in Ligue 1, he has still managed to net five times – including a hat-trick against Nimes – to help his side move up to seventh in the table. The Blues are looking to add to their forward line as they have had their transfer ban lifted, meaning Lampard could have a busy January.
Abraham has been in fine form this season, scoring 11 goals in the Premier League, but the Chelsea boss is keen to add to his squad with Olivier Giroud expected to leave when the transfer window opens.
Currently, one of the most outstanding strikers in the French League going by his impressive performance so far this season but Bordeaux defender, Laurent Koscielny, believes Josh Maja has the potential to achieve greatness if he continues to read the game carefully.
“It’s great for him and his confidence. You can feel that he’s starting to settle in and it’s bearing fruit. He works hard in front of goal, and he was rewarded.
“He still needs to improve in his reading of the game, but he has the right attitude to learn and try to do things well.”
League One strugglers Sunderland sold Maja to Bordeaux for £3.5 million in January; now he could reportedly be heading to the Premier League with Chelsea.
One year after Maja swapped Wearside for Wine Country, the former Sunderland striker could soon be packing his Louis Vuitton and suitcase and preparing to head back across the channel.
But, unfortunately for the Black Cats faithful, one of the most lethal strikers to lead the line at the Stadium of Light in many, a year is not heading back to the North East to save Sunderland’s season and Phil Parkinson’s reputation.
While the fallen giants have slipped to 12th in the League One table, Maja is making a name for himself at one of France’s biggest clubs. He’s scored six times for Bordeaux in 2019/20, with a clinical hat-trick in November’s 6-0 thrashing of Nimes an early career highlight.
And none other than Chelsea are willing to take a punt on a London-born striker and offer Maja a potentially life-changing move to Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s lack of cutting edge was brutally exposed by another home defeat penultimate Saturday – a shock 1-0 loss to a Bournemouth side in previously perilous form, with neither Michy Batshuayi nor Olivier Giroud doing enough to earn Frank Lampard’s trust behind Tammy Abraham. A new centre-forward, it seems, is top of The Blues’ wishlist with the FIFA-imposed transfer ban a thing of the past.
The former Sunderland forward says he left Sunderland because they could not agree terms on a new deal despite scoring 16 goals for the Black Cats during the first half of the season but was sold to Bordeaux during the January transfer window.
Sunderland offered Maja a contract worth seven times his current salary but he opted to reject the deal. With the 20-year-old’s contract set to expire at the end of the season, the Black Cats opted to cash in to eliminate the risk of losing their star striker on a free transfer.
Eyebrows were raised when Maja joined the Ligue 1 side – particularly given there was a lot of British interest in his services.
“My agent told me that they had shown interest since last year, so it went back further. I made a lot of progress at the beginning of the season, and I think that’s when they decided to take action,” Maja told France Football.
“I had some options in England, Germany, Italy too.
“I felt it was the best opportunity for me to have time in the first team and to progress. It was really a higher step up to me compared to League One.
“We just could not agree on a new deal at Sunderland. It’s that simple. Bordeaux arrived and I wanted to play at a higher level. So I decided to leave.
“I have always wanted to play abroad to discover a new language, a culture, a way of life.
“I agree it is brave. There are not many young players, especially English, who will play abroad so it was a rather different choice from what we usually see. Now I have to stay focused and do my best to show myself fully.”
He continued: “Ligue 1 is different. The technical level is higher here, we must pay more attention to details. I’m in no hurry, just as I’m not worried. I am still in the process of adaptation. I work every day, I am constantly trying to progress. When my chance comes, I will know how to seize it.”
Nonetheless, despite being under contract at the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux until 2023, Maja still harbours ambitions of playing in the Premier League.
“It’s obvious. It’s one of the best leagues in the world, with the best teams. I hope that one day I will be able to play but for now, I am in Bordeaux, I want to succeed here, and we will see later.”
Maja, who was born in Lewisham back in 1998 when Gus Poyet, Gianluca Vialli and Roberto di Matteo were still wearing the famous blue shirt, certainly ticks a lot of boxes for this new-look Chelsea side. He is young, homegrown, and prodigiously talented.
Just 12 months after Sunderland sold him for £3.5 million, it seems that Maja is on his way to bigger and far better things.
The bulky forward is a proved finisher, and it remains his biggest asset yet. His ability to run behind the defenders and free up space for his teammates is also a key ingredient in his game, and at only 20, he can get better.
His only shortcoming is perhaps his hold-up play, which he makes up with the large volume of goals.
Maja chose to represent Nigeria even though he was eligible to play for England owing to his parents having lived in the country.
He was however convinced that his future lies with the Super Eagles, and he made his debut for the men in green and white in a friendly against Ukraine.