Bordeaux coach Paulo Sousa

One to watch: Josh Maja

Publish on at - S. WILLIS


Anglo-Nigerian striker Josh Maja burst onto the scene with a game-killing hat-trick in Bordeaux's 6-0 win over Nîmes in early December, and looks set to carry his strong form into 2020. Get to know the reverse-Channel hopper…

While Ligue 1 Conforama has been a virtual shopping mall for the English Premier League over the decades, relatively few Englishman have gone the other way over the Channel and tried their luck in L'Hexagone. Chris Waddle, part of the legendary Ligue 1 and European Cup-winning Marseille side of the early 90s was perhaps the most notable, with mentions for Joe Cole and Joey Barton.

But now England have a new man making waves in Ligue 1 Conforama: Josh Maja. The 20-year-old striker earned an ultra-rare rating of 9 out of 10 in sports daily L'Equipe for his game-busting hat-trick in Bordeaux's 6-0 mauling of Nîmes in Week 16, showcasing a range of skill and quality that has fans drooling for more.

But who is the man behind the hype? Read on…

Back story:

Born to Nigerian parents in London in 1998, played youth football with Crystal Palace and Fulham before his early promise earned him some time at Manchester City. Although this didn't culminate in a professional contract, Maja's quality was evident and EFL League One side Sunderland swooped to sign him to a two-year scholarship in 2015 and then three-year professional contract in May 2016.

He made his league debut in December 2017, going on to score 16 goals in 41 appearances over two seasons for the Black Cats - including seven goals in the first nine matches of the 2018-19 season - doubtless a factor in Bordeaux swooping to sign him on a four-and-a-half year, deal worth a reported €4m in January of 2019.  

This form also saw Maja called up to the Nigerian national team by coach Gernot Rohr in September 2019, and the Girondin made his international debut in a friendly against Ukraine, coming on for LOSC goal machine Victor Osimhen late in the piece.

Style of play: 

Maja is a finisher. At 1m80, Maja could rely on his physique to carve out chances, but rather the Nigeria international looks to his speed of movement and composure under pressure to set up his quick, powerful shooting. This has earned Maja a reputation for creating goals seemingly out of nothing, but under Bordeaux boss Paulo Sousa, Maja has improved his positional sense and link-up play and now presents a much more complete profile as a striker - as his hat-trick against Nîmes showcased.

Current campaign:

Maja hit his first of the season in Week 2 and then struck again in the Round of 32 Coupe de la Ligue BKT win over Dijon at the end of October. This second strike, coming in his first start of the season, seems to have been the turning point. Maja has worked his way into Sousa's starting XI and has started in their last three league outings - with a return of four goals, including a stunning back-heel finish in Week 15 and his hat-trick in Week 16.

What you didn't know:

Maja is a dyed-in-the-wool Arsenal FC fan. Did he move to France because it is the London club's preferred recruitment destination? Very hard to say…

Best goal:

The third strike in Maja's hat-trick against Nîmes was the sweetest, the striker high on confidence by this stage and taking his time - and several touches - to work just the right position on the edge of the area before hooking a deceptively powerful shot past an increasingly unfortunate Paul Bernardoni in the Nîmes goal.

What he said:

"Bordeaux are a massive club in France and have a massive city. A lot of the historic players in French football, like Zinedine Zidane, came from here. That was one of the reasons. It was just about the way the club was going and is going now. A lot of young players are coming through. I think that it is a good chance for me to try to get regular football, week in, week out, at the top level. In one of Europe’s top 5 leagues. I think that was the main reason for coming here."

- Talking to Get French Football News on his decision to leave England for Bordeaux

"Obviously I am not the strongest or the tallest or the quickest so, I need to be smart in the way I move round the pitch. Every little piece of advice that he gives I listen to, because I know it is going to make a difference."

- On working with Bordeaux boss Paulo Sousa

"It feels good to have scored my first professional hat-trick. I'm very pleased to get three points as well for the team and I'm hoping to push on from here. I wouldn't say hero I would say it's just a special moment for me and for my family as well. I'm just looking to keep improving and keep helping the team with more good results. Me and Yacine [Adli] have a good relationship on the pitch and off the pitch. We have a connection and of course you saw that with the second goal."

- After his star turn against Nîmes

What they said:

"I've been very impressed with Josh. He's different, he gives us a big injection of personality."

- Former Sunderland coach Chris Coleman after Maja scored on his league debut to end the Black cat's home win drought in the 1-0 win over Fulham in December 2017

Bordeaux coach Paulo Sousa

"Josh is one of our best players in terms of finishing. Every time he gets a good first touch, he can finish well even with very little space to work in."

- Bordeaux boss Paulo Sousa in the lead up to the Week 17 clash with Marseille

"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."

- Bordeaux team-mate Laurent Koscielny after Maja's hat-trick