When Jadon Sancho moved to Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2017, it was viewed as a risky but brave move for the exciting youngster, a move that had rarely been seen amongst English youngsters. A few years on, and Sancho has proved those lingering doubts wrong, becoming one of the most prestigious young forwards in the world, but also paving the way for fellow young English talents to follow the same route.
Marcus Edwards left the Tottenham academy to join Portuguese outfit Vitória Guimares, Josh Maja – back in England having signed for Fulham this month – departed from Sunderland to join French side Bordeaux, Reiss Nelson left on-loan from Arsenal to join Sancho in Germany but with Hoffenheim and the most recent and notable move was Jude Bellingham joining Sancho in Dortmund last summer and is already thriving in a totally different environment.
Though, one player who took a similar route to find stardom in Europe is former Tottenham academy product Noni Maduake who packed his bags to join Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 2018 on a free transfer, seeking a more attainable route to first-team football and embark on a journey that would eventually start off his rapid development and further his education in a much different European league.
Fast forward a couple years and the 18-year-old has morphed into one of Europe’s most promising young talents.
It’s a testament to his bravery and the confidence in his own abilities to try a totally different environment and its a risk that has paid off in abundance for the talented young forward.
So what’s Madueke’s journey been like? How has he progressed in Holland and why is he currently touted as one of Europe’s most coveted teenage footballers?
Who is Noni Madueke?
Born and raised in London, England. Noni Madueke is of Nigerian descent through his parents and is currently embroiled in a tug of war between Nigeria and England as both nations seek to snap him up for their international sides.
Madueke spent a good chunk of his early career with Tottenham Hotspur becoming a stand out player in the youth ranks, captaining their under-16s side and making his debut for the under-18s at the age of just 15 years.
Such standout characteristics, maturity and performances shown gained a whole of host of admirers across Europe. All of Chelsea, Manchester United, Celtic were all linked for his signature with Manchester United rumoured to have made an offer for the player.
However, it would of course be PSV who won the race for his signature, with Madueke himself stating that Jadon Sancho was an inspiration and a catalyst for him to make his move across Europe:
“Sancho has opened the eyes to other talents. A year after him, I went from Spurs to PSV. The plan I had in mind then is now working out the way I intended it.
In England it is very difficult as a young talent to get into the first team, especially at the bigger clubs. The squads are very large and there is little room for youngsters. They often stay in reserve teams for a long time or are loaned out.
There is little flow or chance to break through. That is completely different in the Netherlands.”
Madueke firstly had to bide his time before a first team debut when he arrived in the Netherlands. However, after showcasing his talents at both under-17 and under-19 level, the wonderkid was eventually promoted to the second team Jong PSV during the 2019/20 campaign.
His talents, maturity and adaptation quickly shone through once again, and after six games for Jong PSV, he earned a first team call-up.
But just days after being handed his first start for the Boeren, the 2019/20 campaign was brought to a premature end due to Covid-19.
It was not all doom and gloom for the Madueke, though, as PSV would tie him down to a fresh contract until 2024 just two days after his first start.
He would then go on to cement a regular berth in the PSV first team where so far this campaign, he’s notched eight goals and eight assists in all competitions. A superb return for a player who only joined the first team picture just under a year ago.
In terms of the international scene, Madueke has also thrived now currently biding his time with the under-18s, however the 18-year-old is still eligible to play for Nigeria due to his parents with the nation currently trying to prize him away from the Three Lions setup.
What is Madueke’s style of play?
PSV are amongst the most exciting teams currently in Europe because of their significant emphasis on youth and providing them a chance to impress with the first tam. Managed by former RB Salzburg and Bayer Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt – two teams who hold similar philosophies – the German encourages an aggressive, high-intensity and free-flowing system, very similar to that of Jurgen Klopp and Marcelo Bielsa.
PSV are blessed with an embarrassment of riches in young talents who are on a steady progression under Schmidt and more importantly players who are primed to go on and have flourishing careers in future. Mohamed Ihattaren, Donyell Malen, Cody Gakpo, Ibrahim Sangare and of course Noni Madueke.
Roger Schmidt has been very sparodic in his use of Noni Madueke this season, primarily bringing him on as a sub in order to take advantage of the tired legs in his opponents which he is then given the license to wreak havoc.
The 18-year-old’s pace, directness, trickery, tactical understanding and the ability to use both feet has made him a pivotal asset for the Dutch giants, sitting in third place, four points off Ajax in first place.
Noni Madueke is a raw but unique and exciting talent. A player who’s goals and assists record this season has propelled him to become one of the countries deadliest forwards. He ranks fifth for goals per 90 (0.65) in the Dutch Eredivisie and first for assists per 90 (0.57), a superb return for a player still learning his trade.
One of Madueke’s most impressive traits as you may have seen in the above clip provided by Brazil Scout is the supreme confidence at which he carries the ball and goes about his attacking play. This confidence coupled with his impressive pace, trickery and artistry makes him a dangerous player in 1v1 situations. His ability in progressing the ball is very much in the same mould as some of the best around and its why he is involved in a goal every 62 minutes.
The English wonderkid has proven time and time again this season that he can be constant threat, no matter how good the opposition is. He isn’t afraid to get by his marker even if they are the most defensively sound in the league. He carries around the aura, the panache and the confidence needed in order to come up against the best.
Lining up on the right-hand side, the youngster loves cutting inside if provided with enough space in order to create and form goalscoring opportunities due to his great dribbling abilities and most importantly the awareness of what’s around him. Because of this, he is easily able to pick out his teammates with some smart and incisive through balls and also using them as decoys in order to drive into the penalty area. He averages 1.49 key passes and an astonishing 6 dribbles per 90 highlighting his incredible decisiveness in the final third.
Madueke’s ability to locate holes between the opposition midfield and defence, receive the ball on the half-turn and pick out the right moments in which to exploit spaces or run in-behind is superb. He holds a knack of fooling his defenders because they simply cannot anticipate what move he’ll perform next. His tall, rangy and flexible build allows him to get about the attacking phases with such ease and confidence.
Once he gets in dangerous positions, he showcases a maturity and an understanding that belies his years. He’s perfectly calm as well as destructive in order to become very effective when it matters. Six goals and six assists in 19 Eredivisie and Europa League appearances so far this season tells you all you need to know about Madueke’s qualities. The Englishman has also shown a range in his finishing this season too, at times beating his marker after making space for himself, latching on to the end of cutbacks and crosses or finishing off smart passing moves.
As a winger though, its his assists and creating chances which will be judged the most, but Madueke passes with flying markers. We’ve acknowledged his dribbling abilities in order to create but its his superb positioning and spatial awareness that increases his pass marks.
He knows where to set himself before receiving a pass but also holds the ability to time his runs effectively in order to receive a through ball or a raking cross-field pass. Where most youngsters his age fail to capitalize in such situations mainly because of their lack of experience, over-exuberance or petulance, Madueke surpasses these weaknesses, harnessing an edge and incisiveness to his game that ultimately proves devastating within PSV’s counter attacking football.
He may not get himself involved with the first or second phases of play, contributing in keeping possession but instead waits until he receives the ball in the final in order to strut his stuff.
He averages 16.5 passes per game, which seems little in comparison to his more possession-heavy teammates but through his dribble map above, most of his work takes place within the final third. The Tottenham academy graduate mostly follows up a successful dribble with a shot which means that he is fairly confident in his ability to get the better of his opponents in one on ones.
Being a winger, Madueke is expected to hold his own against left backs so it is not surprising to see him boast a 78.9% success rate in duels with left-backs. In total, he boasts a 76.1% successful dribbles rate which is a very great number for a player who is still in the early stages of his development.
One aspect in which Madueke will need to work on his combination plays. Working in Roger Schmidt’s system main involve individuality which the 18-year-old most excels at but in such an aggressive, high-intensity system, its the team as a whole which matters most where everyone works as a unit in order for the system deployed to have more of an effect.
He frequently tries to dribble when a pass is the correct call which is understandable for a player his age, but in order to grow much more and become a well-rounded and intelligent player he needs to understand when its the right time to dribble and pass.
It’s those fine margins that sets a footballer apart from the rest.
What does the future hold for Madueke?
It must be stated that he is still only 18, and one can expect that these areas of his game will improve, especially under Roger Schmidt. His weaknesses are typical for a player of his experience (or lack thereof). Nevertheless, Madueke’s path to the Eredivisie has given him an opportunity, one he may not have gotten in England.
His game has been further enhanced by the risk he took a couple years ago, and its a testament to his character and maturity that he is able to thrive outside his comfort zone. An aspect which will certainly stand him in good stead for the future when he surely joins a much bigger outfit, with no disrespect to PSV of course.
For now though, his immediate future lies in Holland and PSV Eindhoven is the perfect platform for him to carry on his remarkable development. The club are fighting for Champions League football for the 2021/22 campaign and if the club can carry on their stark progression under Roger Schmidt with the help of Noni Madueke, there’s no reason why they cannot secure continental qualification. An experience which will certainly prove invaluable for Noni Madueke learning and development.