His birth certificate might say he is twenty-two years old, but James Maddison still doesn’t look old enough to buy his own scratch cards. You probably wouldn’t blink if he was running around on a school playground, smashing balls into imaginary nets during his lunch break.
Despite his youthful appearance, Maddison has shown that he belongs with the big boys as he is quickly establishing himself as a solid Premier League footballer. He was so highly valued by his previous club, Norwich City, that a huge price tag was slapped on him to warn off potential suitors in the summer transfer window.
Big name clubs such as Arsenal and Tottenham were reportedly tracking Maddison’s progress. Yet, it didn’t always seem that he was destined to play professional football. As a late physical bloomer in the Coventry academy, Maddison always had to prove he had something different. Something special.
After ten years at Coventry, his first-team debut came at 17. In the following seasons, his performances were impressive enough to earn a move to Norwich in 2016. Spells in League One and the Scottish Premiership followed, but Maddison saved his best for the 2017/18 season. 15 goals, 11 assists and a spot in the PFA Championship team of the year made heads turn in the Premier League. In the end, it was Leicester who made him the fourth most expensive transfer in Championship history, spending £25 million on the then 21-year-old.
As a teenager, Maddison turned to his outstanding technical ability to make him stand out on the pitch against his more physically dominant peers. Not much has changed today. He has hardly blossomed into a hulking presence, standing at 5’9 and weighing a touch over 70kg according to Leicester’s website. But, his time in the more grueling leagues of British football has toughened him up. Now, Maddison has steel that coupled alongside his exceptional technique make him a handful for any defence.
Despite his tender frame, Maddison plays football with unbridled confidence. He combines exuberance and elegance, two traits we crave but rarely see in a traditional English No. 10. The stats speak for themselves as no other player has created more goalscoring opportunities (74) in the Premier League than James Maddison. No surprise then that former England legend Paul Gascoigne has tipped him for the very top.
Maddison’s ambition was clear from the moment he arrived at Leicester. He said he was “desperate to be a success here” in an interview just weeks after his summer transfer. He enjoyed a fantastic start to life in the Premier League, scoring three goals and assisting twice in his first seven games. Pundits and fans alike were quick to praise his nimble feet, clever movement and remarkable set-piece ability.
More impressive is Maddison’s mentality, he is admirably self-assured for someone with relatively little experience in the top flight. It comes as no surprise then that Maddison chose the number ten on the back of his shirt, an iconic number and inspiration for almost every young, attacking footballer. His neat technical style resembles another English midfielder who wore the historic number: Joe Cole.
Cole’s career also started brightly, impressing at West Ham before earning a big move to Chelsea. What followed was a solid but ultimately unspectacular career for a player dubbed to be England’s great hope. Maddison will want to forge his own path to the top of English football.
After his blistering start, which included an England call-up in October, Maddison’s form cooled during the winter months. He went on a three-month goal drought, Leicester slipped down the table and he received his second professional red card during his most trying period of the last 18 months.
The pragmatic manager Claude Puel has since left the club following Leicester’s stagnation. He has been replaced by Brendan Rodgers, often renowned for his inventive, free-flowing football. Maddison will aim to become a central part of the former Celtic manager’s plans and based on the evidence, the pair seem a perfect fit for each other’s energetic and creative styles.
Feature Image via Racing Post
Premier League Archive
Edited by Srinivas Sadhanand