Newcastle have surprised by achieving fourth spot so far this season - signing this skilful forward could ensure they are still there come May.
Last season Sochaux were Ligue 1’s surprise package and in the end were well worthy of their fifth place finish. The reasons behind their success were clear to see. Coach Francis Gillot’s attacking 4-1-3-2 formation, the midfield duo of Ryad Boudebouz and Marvin Martin and then the 30 goal partnership of strikers Brown Ideye and Modibo Maiga.
In Ligue 1 success brings unwanted attention, just ask champions Lille. Whenever you perform well it inevitably leads to teams with money swooping in to snap up anyone that’s had a good season. Sochaux were no different.
All summer their top players were linked with moves away. Arsenal fancied Martin; other Premier League clubs took a look at Boudebouz. Brown Ideye left for the Ukraine when Dinamo Kiev waved bags of cash in his face. However one move dominated the gossip columns all summer, the interest from Newcastle for Modibo Maiga was very real, and with only two months till the transfer window opens again the rumours seems to be gathering pace once again.
With Ideye’s departure to Kiev it was clear that Sochaux chairman Alexandre Lacombe didn’t want to see both his top strikers leave in the same window and he took the same stance as he had with Martin, only a extremely high bid would see Maiga leave France for pastures new.
Before the Newcastle saga began Maiga’s career had been nothing but positive. He arrived in Ligue 1 back in 2007 moving from Raja Casablanca to Le Mans as a future replacement for Ivorian winger Gervinho. Maiga played mostly on the wings in the early days. Showing a combination of pace and powerful running he was a constant threat cutting in from wide areas and in three years he managed 15 goals for Le Mans.
The interest from Newcastle for Modibo Maiga was very real, and with only two months till the transfer window opens again the rumours seems to be gathering pace once again.
Although Le Mans were relegated Maiga continued to impress, his excellent performances down in Ligue 2 led to Sochaux spending what was reportedly less than €5m for the Malian winger. Maiga was instantly given a role upfront alongside Nigerian Ideye and with the sublime Marvin Martin providing the assists Maiga clearly thrived on leading the forward line for his new club with 15 goals to show for his great play.
At only 24 he is far from the complete article but he has the ability to become a deadly striker. He is a very strong and physical player, possessing great presence in the air and equally adept on the ground. He has shown he can link up well with both the midfield and attack but when given space and time he has no trouble beating his man and creating chances on his own.
His time on the wings with Le Mans makes him a very dangerous prospect, able to drift wide to create space he can then in a flash burst through the middle causing problems for the defence. There is no questioning his ability, if only the same could be said about his attitude.
Two weeks before the end of the summer transfer window Sochaux were due to play Caen in their opening home game of the season. Following a 2-2 draw away at Marseille spirits were high in the Sochaux camp. Hours before kick-off stories began to emerge that Maiga had withdrawn from the squad and would not take part in the game.
Newcastle and Maiga had reportedly agreed personal terms on a move to the North-East but Sochaux were unwilling to discuss the move. It seemed that Maiga was trying to force the club’s hand. Boycotting the Caen game, that Sochaux lost 2-1 and then purposely missing training session brought the situation to the point where president Lacombe filed a complaint with FIFA to put a stop to the direct contact between Newcastle and the player.
Newcastle and Maiga had reportedly agreed personal terms on a move to the North-East but Sochaux were unwilling to discuss the move. It seemed that Maiga was trying to force the club’s hand.
The window closed with Maiga still contracted to Sochaux and after missing four games including Sochaux’s defeat to Metalist Kharkhiv in the Europa League. He made his return in the 2-1 win over St-Etienne, setting up Ryad Boudebouz for the opening goal.
It was hoped that Maiga would get his head down and give his all for the club currently paying his wages, it didn’t last long though. A poor performance against Lorient followed the striker once again going A.W.O.L from training without permission. The player was banned from first team duties and sent to spend a week with the reserves.
The day before Sochaux took on current champions Lille, Maiga played against Amnéville in the fourth division. His 20 minute cameo delivered two goals as Sochaux II won 3-2. The following day the first team shocked Lille with a late equaliser to bring a point back from northern France.
Coach Mehmet Bazdarevic had the chance to make an example of Maiga. His team had performed so well against Lille, there was no reason to bring him straight back into the Starting XI. Bazdarevic showed weakness, Maiga returned and perhaps after they were dispatched 6-2 by Rennes he may have rued his decision. Maiga played from the start and although he scored his inclusion in the starting XI could not have done much for team morale.
In the last few weeks Maiga has been on somewhat of a charm offensive. Four goals in three games have slightly improved his standings with the fans but it is clear he doesn’t plan to stay in Montbéliard for long:
"At the moment I am here and scoring goals. I do not know when the transfer window opens what there will be. It depends also on the club, but in the near future I want to ply my trade in another top league. It is a genuine ambition, I will accept being booed for that!"
No one will be shocked if Maiga moves to Newcastle in January. For his abilities on the pitch there is no doubt Maiga is a talented player however Newcastle fans should be wary of what happens when he scores goals in the Premier League and the bigger clubs come calling.
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