With notable big name departures occurring over the summer, Noni Madueke must now grasp the mantle of being PSV’s talisman. This season could define his extraordinary talent.
Despite being so young, and having serious injury setbacks in recent seasons, it was always apparent that Noni Madueke would inherit this current PSV Eindhoven side.
Keeping hold of the English winger could prove to be the club’s main summer objective. There have been huge landmark changes to the side. Captain Denzel Dumfries, Pablo Rosario and the talismanic Donyell Malen have all departed.
It remains an interesting squad of young talent, with Cody Gakpo, Ibrahim Sangare and Olivier Boscagli remaining. However the buzz and enticing sense of progress has certainly dimmed with those high profile exits.
Noni Madueke is comfortably the one to carry forward the mantle. A symbol of thrilling, attacking football, but also as an ambitious personality unaccustomed to making dramatic steps in his career to further his own development.
At only nineteen, this is already Noni Madueke’s team.
Step 1: Leaving England
The trend had been set by Jadon Sancho. Leaving England at just seventeen, as first team football seemed unrealistic. Noni Madueke would make a similar step, albeit one that went under the radar.
Madueke had been progressing comfortably through the academy ranks at Tottenham Hotspur. Captain at junior level, he was playing three years above his age range such was his growth.
Yet, as is so often the case in modern academy football, the step up to the first team appeared murkier. These were the Mauricio Pochettino years. The Argentine’s dedication to youth and promoting from the academy was a glowing takeaway from his years. But in a club challenging for league titles, and with a plethora of wide attacking options, for Madueke there was no clear point of reference.
These questions did not go unheard. It is said that Manchester United and Chelsea tabled offers to Madueke. The prestige and grandeur of these clubs would have been a pull for any graduate. yet for Madueke, playing there would pose many of the same questions.
So it was a foreign party that swayed Noni Madueke. PSV Eindhoven. A haven for the unpolished gem. A network of coaches and infrastructure designed to extradite every ounce of ability out of the young and untested.
A professional contract too. Noni Madueke would get his shot at first team football.
Step 2: Breaking Ground
Malen himself took a similar route to Eindhoven. Whilst he left for London to join Arsenal, unenthused by the opportunities Ajax would offer, Malen would then return to Holland to make his professional bow with PSV.
The club’s reserve side, Jong PSV, play in the second division. A perfect testing ground for the graduates before they are promoted to the full senior side. Madueke made six league appearances for the Jong side, scoring four goals in the 2019/20 season.
What followed was inevitable. A top flight debut in the Eredivisie, coming against VVV-Venlo in January 2020. Unfortunately for Madueke, the Eredivisie season would end abruptly in March, so would have to wait until the following campaign to continue his blazing trail.
A healthy twenty four appearances in the Eredvisie followed. Only seven were starts, but Madueke proved his worth as a frightening impact substitute. Seven goals and four assists came in at a rate of 1.02 G+A per 90. An astonishing rate of potency.
Under the impressive Roger Schmidt, Madueke was honing his craft as both a winger, and a second striker. Schmidt rarely deviated from a 4-2-2-2 with aggressive inverted wingers. Madueke, a natural left footer, would often find himself as the right sided of these wingers. Alternatively, he was even paired with Malen as the second striker. His finishing, linking, and dribbling was developing rapidly.
Step 3: International prominence
The aftermath, and messiness that followed England’s U-21 Euros were at odds to the enthusiasm and excitement heading into it. Here was a squad of bursting talent and potential in attacking areas. Choosing from a rank of Eddie Nketiah, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Greenwood, Emile Smith Rowe and Ebere Eze was a depth few could counter.
Despite the proven Premier League quality already within the squad, Noni Madueke was also named. His form heading into the spring (barring for a month long injury absense in January) was electric. Any combination of these attackers would surely devastate any opposition?
It turned out to not be the case. Under directionless leadership, England were desperately poor and crashed out at the first hurdle. Madueke made a fleeting appearance as a starter in the 2-0 defeat to Portugal.
The eyes of England’s powers that be were clearly following Madueke. He had featured in youth teams since 2016, so was not unaccustomed to wearing white and navy. That he was already featuring in England’s most prominent youth side however, just two years on from his senior debut, certainly shows the faith and anticipation the national setup has for Noni Madueke.
Step 4: The Madueke Method
It is hard to pinpoint just what Madueke is best at. Whether it is as an explosive winger, starting wide right and cutting centrally. Or whether deployinghis unique skillset centrally is in fact an unorthodox deployment of his abilities.
Noni Madueke is certainly adaptable enough to do both. He already has the hunger and drive to attack the ball in the penalty area to become a more regular goalscorer. Working with Ruud van Nistelrooy at PSV has reportedly benefited this massively.
Yet seeing Madueke grab the ball on the right wing, and slow time as he glides past outstretched legs is a true joy. In the Eredivisie last season, Madueke attempted 7.69 dribbles per ninety, only bettered by eleven others in the league. At full flight, Noni Madueke cannot be caught. In a side that is devastating on the counter, he and Malen would peel off right and left and wait to be released by a long pass.
Whilst Malen would love the ball ahead of him to chase, Madueke thrived when receiving the ball to feet. Defenders would commit only for him to play in Malen, or they would back off and allow him to stream forward.
In the 2021 Johann Cruyff Shield versus Ajax, Madueke turned in a world class show in wing play. He scored twice, with his first goal being the archetypal Noni Madueke strike. With defenders back pedalling, Madueke strode forward from the right half space. His run equalised across the edge of the penalty area, before firing home at the near post. All done in the second minute of the match.
A goal of this class, so early in a the match, against the league champions, is what Madueke is all about. A fearless electricity, unbowed by occasion.
Step 5: Becoming a superstar
With Malen gone, Noni Madueke is now the standard bearer of this attacking unit. Cody Gakpo is undoubtedly a player of great promise, but even he lacks the uniqueness and rarity possessed by Madueke.
The narrative around Eredivise players is a confusing one. Talent shines to a blinding extent, yet is often mistrusted due to snobbish misconceptions surrounding the league’s quality. Either way, it is rare for a player of the highest quality to remain in the Netherlands for long.
Malen’s departure had been rumoured for a few years, to the point that it was inconceivable that he would remain this campaign. This of course was proven to be true. When asked about potentially selling Madueke, Schmidt said:
“You could sell him. But if you sell him in two years, you might get a lot more for him. He feels so good in this team and this team now.”
A telling sentiment. The selling Madueke narrative, much in the vein of Malen’s, has already begun. Even his former club Spurs are reported to be testing the waters on bringing him ‘home’.
Rest assured, it will not be long before he waves farewell to Eindhoven. That he will leave as one of Europe’s most exciting wingers will also be undoubted.
This coming season therefore is Madueke’s time to make such talk worthy. To put in a campaign of the explosive standards he is already setting. Few will be able to ignore it.
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