JOSH MAJA has described his time at Sunderland as “bittersweet”, and insisted he always knew he would be portrayed as the “bad guy” in Netflix’s ‘Sunderland Til I Die’ documentary.

Maja’s departure for French club Bordeaux in January 2019 formed a key part of the second series of the Sunderland saga, with the striker turning down an offer to remain on Wearside in order to move to Ligue 1.

His exit was portrayed as an example of a young player chasing the money rather than repaying the club that had helped develop him, but Maja insists the primary motivation for his move to France was always a desire to further his career.

In that respect, it has proved a wise decision, with the 21-year-old having claimed a Ligue 1 hat-trick last season and started four of Bordeaux’s six matches in the current campaign.

“I always knew they were going to portray it like that, to make it look like I’m the bad guy,” said Maja. “But that’s life. It’s easy to get caught up in the messages, what people are saying about you, but it’s just about staying focused and being true to yourself.

“It was a good watch, though. When I look back on my time at Sunderland, it will always be bittersweet. It was obviously a difficult decision to leave, but it was about recognising that it was time to take the next step. I’ll always be grateful to everyone there. It wasn’t easy when I first arrived, and I got a lot of support. I’ll always be thankful for that.”

Maja also experienced difficulties in the early days of Bordeaux career, but he has gradually come to terms with the challenges of playing and living in France.

“I definitely think I wasn’t ready to start when I arrived,” he said, in an interview with The Independent. “But my quality was always there. I’ve developed technically and tactically, but the biggest difference is my mindset.

“I’ve had to be patient, focus and just listen to everything the coaches say and pick up lots of little things which can help me to make a big difference. This season, I want to showcase what I’m capable of, to start more games and score more goals.”

Maja turned down opportunities to remain in England in order to join Bordeaux, and is confident he made the right decision.

“Being in the spotlight can have its ups and downs,” he said. “Here, I just get to enjoy my football every day, that’s not something I take for granted.”