Josh Maja is a name that’s long been linked with Rangers.

The club’s interest in the player is legitimate and the need for further striking reinforcements ahead of the new season is clear, but circumstances are far from simple.

The forward’s future is tied up in his club’s. Bordeaux are involved in a controversial ruling by the league after their final match of the season against Rodez was abandoned when a fan attacked an opposition player. They were subsequently awarded a defeat, meaning Bordeaux finished third in the table and missed out on promotion from Ligue 2.

Maja, 24, initially broke through professionally at Sunderland, impressing in the Championship before 15 goals in 24 League One appearances the following season. A move to Bordeaux, then in Ligue 1, followed that January and during a bit-part 18 months, Maja would score six goals in 2019/20. During the second half of the 2020/21 season, he went on loan to Fulham and spent time the following year with Stoke in the Championship, following an injury during the early parts of the campaign.

Last season was his best yet, notching 16 league goals for Bordeaux.


Maja is a right-footed No.9. His game has plenty of flair although he favours utilising that asset to outplay opponents rather than dribble beyond them, more comfortable when combining with his teammates than when isolated. He’s capable of playing on the last line and making runs in behind or connecting play, although the forward appears at his most efficient operating as high up the pitch as possible.

Also able to create for his teammates, Maja spends the majority of his final third time within the penalty box. He’s more likely to get on the end of chances than singlehandedly fashion them himself and looks quicker on the eye over short bursts than long distances.

His radar from last season, compared to the league average for forwards, can be found below.


What is this showing me?

  • Maja appears good at many things, not exceptional at any one. An xG/90 of 0.3 per 90 isn’t that high, nor is 2.11 shots or 5.72 touches in the opposition box. This likely owes to the time Maja spent as a second striker last season.
  • His xG Assisted total stacks up well in comparison to the rest of the league. Maja is a striker also able to create shooting opportunities for teammates.
  • His low dribble rate is demonstrative of that preference to outplay with clever flicks and link-up play instead of individual runs. Maja is a combination player.
  • An xG/Shot of 0.14 is above mid-range but not exceptionally high. He sometimes shoots from unrealistic angles.
  • Maja’s pressing numbers come with the caveat that he’s played for one of the league-dominant teams, thus spending longer with the ball. He does rank fairly well on pressure regains.

As the Rangers Review recently covered at length, Michael Beale has changed the shape and function of his side’s front three. Moving away from two No.10s and one deep-lying forward to instead operate with two wide No.9s and one free No.10.

We know Beale wants his forwards to “not to be one position but interchange and move around and have a lot of freedom” but crucially, he needs individuals capable of instinctive finishing and high goal tallies over a season.

Maja, as will be elaborated, has strengths outside of his goals that allow him to fit this category. More crucially, his identity as a goalscorer is clear.

Inside the penalty box

Take a look at Maja’s shot map from last season, featuring nine goals and seven penalties.

There’s a number of really speculative efforts from range but that aside, the attacker’s normally taking aim from within the dimension of the goalposts. The fact he’s scored nine goals from 9.87xG, penalties aren’t included in this total, is an encouraging sign.

Although Maja isn’t a player who always hangs on the last line and does create for others, he’ll play higher and narrower than recent signing Sam Lammers by default.

The fact that he only created 0.04xG from dribbles, shots Maja fashioned himself following a carry, backs up the findings from the above radar. The attacker is more of a combiner who likes to occupy central territory in the final third as opposed to dribbling himself towards goal.

The cluster of activity, and goals, around the six-yard box is a huge positive. The current squad, Kemar Roofe aside, lacks a player who’s going to score ‘scrappy’ goals. You can tell a lot about a forward by their instincts and last season, especially from corner kicks, Maja found huge success from close range.

Here’s an example from a game against Grenoble, with Maja moving around the back to score.

Take this strike against Nottingham Forrest when playing for Stoke as a further example.

Or, this finish against Angers last season.

These instincts extend to open play as well. Maja’s a clever exponent of space who can manipulate his marker to earn free shots in a crowded penalty area. Look at the forward’s first goal for Fulham in the Premier League against Everton as proof.

READ MORE: Michael Beale's striker evolution and what it means for Rangers

As play progresses forward Maja retains his distance from both centre-backs, timing his movement for when both defenders are watching the cross. Therefore enabling him to steal in behind and finish unopposed.


You can see similar themes in the fashion Maja attacks this cross when playing for Sunderland. There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about a forward creating space for himself in the box. However, it’s notable that the forward possesses this quick change of direction in his locker combined with clever space exploitation.

In this goal against Caen last season, notice Maja’s body position as he awaits a through ball. The striker faints towards the right before pulling back out left, earning just enough room for his teammate to instead squeeze a pass down the left channel with his marker on the back foot.

In this example, taken from the club’s spell in Ligue 1, notice how Maja again creates separation from his marker by pulling him infield and then moving wide, into his favoured right-hand channel.

What about outside the box?

A quick glance at Maja’s heatmap from the 2022/23 campaign distorts the notion that he only occupies the last line. Last season especially, the attacker often played the support striker role, dropping into the midfield but playing within the dimensions of the goals when in the box.

Maja looks to link with a teammate close by when dropping into these positions, as opposed to switching play or turning forward to carry the ball.

Arguably, there are occasions when Maja’s too keen to play these quick lay-offs. Instead of turning and driving into the highlighted space below, he loses possession.

Although this is one isolated example, it’s clear when watching Maja that his link-up skill is better utilised closer to goal, when quick passes and interchanging proves more effective.

A strong xG Assisted rating last season is evidence that the attacker creates more often for his teammates than he does individually. He’s capable of dropping to receive play but more comfortable when play reaches him in the final third.

Does it fit?

A player with Maja’s quality would solve problems for Michael Beale.

Although he’s not as evidently happy out wide as a Sam Lammers or the heavily-linked Cyriel Dessers, Maja can combine with teammates successfully in the final third. He’s a flair player capable of taking risks and although heavily reliant on his right foot, can count on a good burst of pace.

More importantly, as last season showed, he’s a goalscorer. With intelligent movement, an ability to link with teammates and score ‘strikers goals’.

If a move to Ibrox comes to pass, Maja could complete the compliment of players in Beale's front three.