Player profile: Modibo Maiga
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has been active in the transfer market as he looks to re-shape his squad ahead of the Hammers’ return to the Premiership, despite it only being July.
Goalkeepers Jussi Jaaskelainen and Stephen Henderson, defender George McCartney and midfielder Mohamed Diame all joined the Irons at the beginning of the month and Mali striker Modibo Maiga quickly enlisted too.
The 24-year-old was signed from French side Sochaux on a four-year deal for a fee of around £4.7 million and will challenge the likes of Carlton Cole and Ricardo Vaz Te for a starting berth up-front.
Maiga may be somewhat of an unknown quantity to many fans but he has been on Newcastle’s radar for sometime and would have moved to the north-east in January had he not failed a medical for a problem with one of his knees.
However, West Ham, much as they did when they signed Demba Ba in 2011, seems to have taken a chance on the fitness of the powerful centre forward.
Of course if Maiga performs as well as Ba did during his brief spell at Upton Park, he will become a fans’ favourite at Upton Park, and there is little to suggest that this won’t be the case.
Born in Mali’s capital Bamako and raised in one of poorest areas of the city, Maiga quickly discovered street football and signed up for the youth team of local side Stade Malien at just 13.
He soon moved to Raja Casablanca in Morocco, before earning a transfer to French Ligue 2 side Le Mans. It was here that Maiga really began to blossom as he played in a promising team featuring Arsenal winger Gervinho and Sunderland star Stephane Sessegnon.
His record of 15 goals in 88 games during three seasons at Le Mans was a decent return for a young striker and he improved this ratio during his time at Sochaux.
The Malian bagged 24 goals in 52 league games for the Ligue 1 side, including 15 strikes during the 2010-11 season when he thrived alongside the likes of Marvin Martin and Ideye Brown.
He is viewed as being a player who is at his best in a traditional front-two, though his pace makes him equally capable of playing on the wing in a 4-3-3 system.
Allardyce is an ardent fan of the 4-3-3 formation, or 4-5-1 as many Hammers’ fans see it, and Maiga’s versatility was undoubtedly a factor in the signing.
One potential issue is the forward’s temperament, as he reportedly went on strike to force through the failed move to Newcastle, while he has also been sent off in each of the last three seasons.
However, if there is one manager who is used to dealing with hot-headed players it is former Bolton boss Allardyce. During his time at the Reebok Stadium, Big Sam kept the likes of Kevin Nolan in check and even re-signed him when he moved to Upton Park, highlighting his man-management skills.
It seems Maiga is also determined to make his time in England a success as he expressed his excitement at putting on the famous claret and blue shirt.
“They have huge tradition and it is like joining part of a family and that is one of the main reasons I wanted to come here,” he said.
“I know some of the big names who have played for the club in the past, and I am proud to be part of a new team back in the Premier League.”
Irons’ supporters will be hoping that Maiga writes his own name into the history books over the coming seasons.
Laurence Taylor, football correspondent