He was the great young hope of English football… so what happened to James Maddison?

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James Maddison - He was the great young hope of English football… so what happened to James Maddison? - GETTY IMAGES
James Maddison - He was the great young hope of English football… so what happened to James Maddison? - GETTY IMAGES

There is no bigger critic of James Maddison than Leicester City’s own No 10, so a run of 15 matches without a goal or assist will be weighing heavily on his shoulders.

Maddison is a perfectionist enduring an imperfect moment in his career, and there is little doubt that the £25 million signing will be more frustrated than anyone.

It seems like a trick of the imagination that in February Maddison had been involved in nine goals in his past 10 Premier League appearances, scoring his fifth in the 2-1 win at Aston Villa, before suffering a hip injury.

That untimely recurrence of a problem ended his hopes of appearing for England at Euro 2020, with Maddison missing a crucial five weeks of the season as Leicester fought for a top-four finish.

Then, in April, he tested his relationship with manager Brendan Rodgers and Leicester team-mates with a poorly judged breach of government Covid rules by attending a party at Ayoze Perez’s house.

Maddison still seems to be carrying the burden of that misdemeanour and the hip issue this season, and last Saturday he was substituted in the second half of Leicester’s 1-0 defeat by Manchester City. It was clear from the crowd’s reaction that a minority of supporters have turned against him. For some of those fans, the Covid breach convinced them that Maddison had too many off-field distractions to realise his true potential.

Ahead of Leicester’s Europa League tie with Napoli tonight, Rodgers has revealed that Maddison is working hard to overcome his recent slump.

“Every player will go through a period like this where you don’t hit the heights, but I’ve got no doubt over the course of the season that he’s going to be a very important player for us,” Rodgers said.

“I think over the course of the last 12-14 months that injuries have held him back more than his actual talent. He’s a big talent and he’s working very hard in training. He’s a player I always look forward to working with and that continues to be the same.”

Without doubt, this barren run will be hitting Maddison hard. He has frequently admitted that he embraces being the focus of attention, and those poor numbers will be a concern.

The 24-year-old always runs through clips of his matches in an attempt to improve his game and cut out weaknesses, working closely with Leicester analyst Jack Lyons.

A naturally confident player who thrives on flair, goals and assists, you only have to revisit his interview following the 2-0 win over Chelsea in January to appreciate his love for football.

Earning a recall with England remains a target, but that ambition seems remote at the moment. He has lost his way and the current focus has to be playing well again for Leicester.

Rodgers has stayed loyal, defending him when he was pictured in a casino in October 2019 after withdrawing from international duty with illness.

Yet after the incident in April, there was a clear message that Maddison – and the others involved, including Perez and Hamza Choudhury – could not afford to make another mistake.

Away from the field, Maddison now has extra responsibilities after becoming a father in July to a baby boy, Leo. There is hope that his new life will ensure he eradicates some of the other distractions which have generated unwanted headlines.

Maddison’s summer was also dominated by interest from Arsenal, though a deal always looked highly unlikely.

Arsenal targeted the former Norwich City midfielder earlier in the transfer window, but a combination of Leicester’s asking price and Real Madrid’s decision to sell Martin Odegaard to the north London club meant it fell through.

Maddison now has to repay the faith of his manager and prove that he is a player who could command a sum of £60 million and above.

He was once regarded as ahead of Jack Grealish in terms of his development and England prospects, but their career paths have since gone in opposite directions.

Maddison has shown he can perform in the Premier League and knows what is required to get him back to the levels he was at before.

Leicester begin their European campaign today against Napoli, who Rodgers has insisted are worthy of operating in the Champions League.

Last season’s FA Cup winners, Leicester have moved to prioritise Europe in this campaign by spending more than £50 million on new players including striker Patson Daka, midfielder Boubakary Soumare and centre-back Jannik Vestergaard.

Rodgers said: “When you have success and you win, you want to keep on winning, but that’s not just about talent, it’s about mentality, spirit, quality.

“The last two seasons have been great, but it’s a new season, new mentality, new hunger and, for us, this competition is very important. We’d like to go a long way in it and hopefully we can.”

Team details vs Napoli (probable): Schmeichel; Castagne, Soyuncu, Vestergaard, Bertrand; Soumare, Tielemans; Lookman, Maddison, Barnes; Vardy.

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