After moving to the UK from Paris, France in 2004, Max attended Lewisham College Football Academy, under the tutelage of then Head Coach Aaron Jacob, who was one of his early mentors. He attended the Bon Giourno Cup in the Netherlands and the team went on to win the trophy conceding no goals, with Max scoring 11 of 17.
On 6 August, manager Martin Allen made Gradel and Conrad Logan available for loan for the forthcoming season. On 9 August 2007 he joined Bournemouth on an initial one-month loan, which was extended for the season on transfer deadline day 31 August.
He made his league debut for Leicester against Milton Keynes Dons on 9 August 2008, setting up a goal as Leicester won 2–0 at the Walkers Stadium.
Gradel played his first game back at Elland Road since his red card against Bristol Rovers, with him putting in an impressive performance when Leeds completed their pre-season campaign on 31 July with a 3–1 win over Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers at Elland Road. On 30 August 2011, he joined French club Saint-Étienne for an undisclosed fee, reported to be £3 million. He signed a four-year contract with the club.