Josh Maja’s departure from Sunderland on the cusp of paying off

Josh Maja, Bordeaux (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images)
Josh Maja, Bordeaux (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images) /

Rising star Josh Maja’s decision to leave Sunderland AFC for the French team Bordeaux was incredibly controversial, but it’s starting to appear that his decision was for the best.

Spoiler alert: if you haven’t been following Sunderland AFC or watching the Netflix documentary Sunderland ‘Til I Die, you should know that since 2017, Sunderland has flailed in dramatic fashion, dropping from the Premier League to the Championship and once again down to League 1 where they remain today.

With no clear idea of how to turn their luck around, the club started looking to its youth academy players in hopes they could develop from within and strengthen a squad that lacked any real depth.

Josh Maja quickly rose to the occasion, proving himself numerous times over the course of the 2017-2018 season. Though the club hoped to slowly introduce him into the line-up, gradually giving him more and more responsibility over time, he was instead thrust into the limelight carrying the team on his back with an absurd goals/game ratio in League 1.

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Naturally, as his fame rose, so did the number of clubs interested in him. Sunderland ‘Til I Die follows his transfer closely as the club agonizes over the loss of the player that was key to their promotion, and spent far too much money on a replacement that has yet to pan out, making them look foolish in the process.

To worsen matters, Maja’s decision to leave and the club’s inability to keep him put the fans in a rioting kind of mood as a winning season turned sour overnight. But can you blame Maja for leaving? I don’t think so.

A player in top form will always want a bigger challenge, a better team, and a chance to measure themselves against the best of the best. Sunderland wasn’t that and hadn’t been that for a long time.

It was a risk for Maja, and as he transitioned to Bordeaux, he had to face having his behind the scenes life megaphoned out to the public through the documentary Sunderland ‘Til I Die, while trying to break into a new team in a new country.

As Maja finished up the 2019 season with Bordeaux, he faced limited playing time and injury. Though this slow beginning failed to prove that his transfer decision was the obvious right choice, Maja has proven to be a player not only with exceptional talent but with the patience and determination to capitalize on every opportunity he’s given no matter how limited they may be.

When the league shut down this year, he was tied for the team’s top goalscorer at 8 goals, and though he wasn’t a consistent starter, his value to the team was clear. The youngster seems to be on his way.

Word is circulating that West Ham, Crystal Palace, Celtic, and Rangers are all interested in acquiring the striker. The strength of their interest is unclear, but what is clear is that Maja looks to be on the right track for an upward trajectory in his career and has done enough to make himself seen on the big stages.

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Sunderland went into the league shutdown in 7th place in League 1, not a clear frontrunner for promotion. Though they might just find success yet, Maja has outgrown Sunderland as it is today, so really, who can blame him for taking a leap of faith in his career and hoping for the best?