This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
Former Sunderland player Josh Maja has stated that he would have remained at the club last January had he been given a new and improved contract.
The 20-year-old left for France last season after scoring 16 league goals in the early part of the season, a move which had a big impact on the Black Cats’ promotion hopes.
However, it could have been a much different story according to the striker, as he revealed he wanted to stay in the north-east and continue playing for the club – if he was on an improved deal.
From his perspective, the 5 foot 11 attacker had six months remaining on his contract and as one of the most promising prospects to come out of the club in recent years it is understandable that he thought he deserved to be earning more, particularly as he had been one of Jack Ross’ better players.
Speaking to the Sunderland Echo, he said: “I wanted to stay. Given the right contract, I would have stayed.
“But at the time, I don’t think Sunderland were prepared to give me what I wanted so when the opportunity to play in one of Europe’s top five leagues came up, I couldn’t turn that down.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was one which to improve my career and my game I think I had to make.”
The move to a bigger club and a chance to test himself against some of the best players in Europe is an opportunity not many would turn down, and since it has worked out rather well for him thus far – with two goals in 12 games this term – fans shouldn’t begrudge his decision.
Watch Sunderland Videos With StreamFootball.tv Below
Maja may have been given his chance by the Black Cats but he was more than repaying the faith shown in him at the time of his exit, yet there was no acceptable option on the table for him to extend his contract.
That means that he is not solely to blame for his own departure. Another former Sunderland player, Victor Anichebe, agrees that it was the fault of those at the club for allowing his departure, as he admits that tying him down for the long-term was something that should have happened a while before he left.
For the board, £1.5m was a decent fee for a player who could have departed for nothing a few months later, and they may have thought that the blow of him leaving would have been softened by the arrival of Will Grigg.
However, the signing of the Northern Ireland international simply hasn’t worked out, and now the team is suffering as a result.
The fact that he wanted to stay almost makes last January’s transfer dealings unforgivable, as with Maja in the team they may have been able to maintain the push to the automatic spots last term, and avoid the situation they’re in currently.
Stewart Donald and the board are partly to blame for that, especially if they refused to spend the extra money in order to guarantee his stay.