Two in, two out so far for Albion

With just a few days left until the start of the season, but the end of the transfer window still four weeks away, Albion have finally started adding to the incomings column with the signings of Jeremy Sarmiento on loan from Brighton and, most recently, Josh Maja on a free transfer from Bordeaux.

The financial realities of the club’s current plight meant that skipper, Dara O’Shea, has departed to Burnley for a fee of £7 million. Many were angry that this was below the £8m release clause in his contract, but my understanding is that Burnley’s offer was for an upfront payment whereas the release clause would have resulted in payments over the length of the contract as is normal with many transfers. Albion’s need for cash now was paramount.

Few Baggies fans will have been sad to see Karlan Grant depart on loan to Cardiff City. The former Huddersfield Town forward has come in for much criticism in his time at the Hawthorns and, with three years left on his contract, a loan move was perhaps the best the club could hope for. The Bluebirds are reportedly paying the bulk of his wages and have paid a loan fee so it seems to be a deal that suits all parties.

There may well be one or two more outgoings before the window closes, which could be painful for Baggies fans to take, but Corberán is also keen to bolster his squad although don’t expect any significant outgoing transfer fees – loans and free transfers are most likely, and they may well be late in the window.

As it stands, I’d be surprised to see either Sarmiento or Maja start the season opener at Blackburn on Saturday, but Maja could well be involved from the bench.

Both feel like decent signings to me given the club’s current predicament, but only time will tell if they prove to be successful at the Hawthorns. Let’s face it, I was positive about the two January signings, but neither turned out well.

A summary of each of their careers is given below.

Jeremy Sarmiento

Born: 16th June 2002 (age 21), Madrid
Signed: 25th July 2023, season long loan
From: Brighton and Hove Albion

Jeremy Sarmiento was born in Madrid to Ecuadorian parents in 2002 and the family moved to England seven years later. His football career started with the academy setup at Charlton Athletic and, after representing Ecuador at U15 level, he moved into the England youth setup and was a member of the England U17 squad in the 2019 Euros alongside the likes of Morgan Rogers, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Cole Palmer.

By then, he had moved from south London to Lisbon to join the Benfica academy in 2018 before the Seagulls’ scouting network under Dan Ashworth spotted him and brought him back to England in the summer of 2021.

He made his senior professional debut aged 19 on 22nd September as a substitute for Alexis Mac Allister in the EFL Cup tie at home to Swansea City. The following month, he received his first senior call up for Ecuador and made his full international debut on 8th October as a substitute in the 3-0 win over Bolivia. He made two starts for his country in November before making his Premier League debut off the bench against Leeds United at the end of that month. He impressed boss, Graham Potter, enough to start the next match at West Ham but suffered a hamstring injury late on that side-lined him for more than three months.

Injury made 2022 a stop-start season for Sarmiento but he played enough to keep involved with the Ecuador squad and he went to the Qatar World Cup coming off the bench in each of Ecuador’s three games.

The turn of the year saw him regularly involved with Brighton’s Premier League squad although he had been restricted to a handful of substitute appearances until a fracture of his metatarsal in Ecuador’s defeat to Australia in Sydney in March brought his season to a premature end.

With just nineteen appearances in senior club football, Sarmiento is obviously lacking in experience but he has 13 full international caps and is evidently well-thought-of by both club and country. If we are lucky, this could be his breakout season.

  From To Apps Goals Assists
Brighton & Hove Albion 2-Jul-2021 Present 5+14 2
Total 5+14 2

Josh Maja

Born: 27th December 1998 (age 24), Lewisham
Signed: 1st August 2023, free transfer
From: Bordeaux

Josh Maja was born in Lewisham in south London to Nigerian parents and largely grew up in Pimlico.

His youth footballing involvement was with Crystal Palace and Fulham but, when his parents moved north, he became involved with the academy at Manchester City.

In 2015, aged 16, he moved to Sunderland where he signed his first professional contract a year later. He made his senior debut aged 17 as a substitute in Sunderland’s EFL cup victory over QPR in September 2016 and was involved in a Premier League squad for the first time in December of that year in the Black Cats’ home defeat by Chelsea.

However, he would not make his Premier League debut for Sunderland before they were relegated and he did not make his league debut for the Wearsiders until December 2017 – it was a successful start to his league career as he came off the bench to score the winner against Fulham. It would prove to be his only goal of the season but his career kicked started the following campaign.

With Sunderland now in League One, Maja was the focal point of Jack Ross’s forward line and he scored in each of the first four games of the season. By January, he had 16 goals to his name and had attracted the interest of Premier League teams along with French Ligue 1 side Bordeaux. With his contract up at the end of the season, the Black Cats had reportedly offered him an extension but he had refused to sign. Chronicled in the Netflix documentary, Sunderland ‘Till I Die, Maja ultimately moved to southwest France for an undisclosed fee.

He would only score once for Bordeaux that campaign before suffering a knee ligament injury and it wasn’t until late 2019 that he started to make his mark bagging a hat trick in a 6-0 victory over Nîmes Olympique. He would end the COVID-affected campaign with 8 goals but found his opportunities limited in the following season and was loaned to Fulham at the end of January 2021. He made his Premier League debut as a substitute against West Ham and then scored a double on his first start for the Cottagers a week later as they won 2-0 at Everton. He would score once more for Fulham, at the Emirates Stadium, before returning to France at the end of the campaign.

A back injury kept Maja out of the side for the first half of the 2021/22 season and, after a couple of substitute appearances in January 2022, Bordeaux opted to send him out on loan once again, this time to Championship Stoke City. He once again scored on his first start for his new club, in a 2-2 draw at Nottingham Forest, but that proved to be his only goal in seventeen appearances.

He returned to Bordeaux to find his parent club in Ligue 2 for last season and he was given the opportunity to lead the line. He took it and scored 17 goals in all competitions as Les Girondins just missed out on promotion back to Ligue 1. The French club were keen to keep Maja but his contract was up and he has opted to join Albion.

He certainly had a good season last year but there is a concern that his best form has come in League One in England and Ligue 2 in France. If he can make the step up to Championship level, he could be an astute signing. At 24, he has plenty of time to learn.

  From To Apps Goals Assists
Sunderland 1-Jul-2016 26-Jan-2019 32+17 17 2
Bordeaux 26-Jan-2019 1-Aug-2023 59+34 29 9
Fulham (loan) 1-Feb-2021 30-Jun-2021 9+6 3
Stoke City (loan) 31-Jan-2022 30-Jun-2022 11+6 1 3
Total 111+63 50 14

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