Who is Norwich City’s James Maddison?

Who is Norwich City’s James Maddison?

The expiration of the January transfer window came as a welcome relief in the detached and distant world of Norwich City.

After losing academy graduate Jacob Murphy to Newcastle last summer, and with the exciting Alex Pritchard pried away to Huddersfield in a surprisingly swift move mid-way through the January window, an ominous feeling of vulnerability and trepidation surrounded the club. This over-riding fear was driven by a swathe of rumours that a host of Premier League clubs were circling the Canaries’ most prized asset.

That asset comes in the form of breakout midfield James Maddison.

Heard of him? Norwich fans will sincerely hope you haven’t.

In the 2017/18 season, Maddison has scored 13 league goals, 31% of the club’s total in the league this season, the joint seventh most in the division, while contributing seven assists. He also boasts the highest completed number of key passes in the division this season (2.7 per game) and the ninth most completed dribbles (2.4 per game). His winner in the East Anglia derby, as above, won the hearts of Norwich fans.

Maddison is, quite simply, Norwich’s outstanding player this season, and the fact that incoming manager Daniel Farke has decided to completely build his team around him, despite primarily signing Bundesliga players since joining last summer, aptly demonstrates his superior ability in the team.

When a number of national newspapers ran stories this January of Man City, Liverpool, Tottenham and West Ham showing interest, a broader narrative became established of Maddison being the new Dele Alli. Alli was picked up by Tottenham for £5m in February 2015, mid-way through a prolific season at MK Dons in which he scored 15 goals, also from the no. 10 position. Maddison is essentially replicating that form, albeit in a more competitive league.

‘The 21-year-old is a graceful, incisive number 10 who is a joy to watch… the new Deli Alli and the best Englishman outside the Premier League’ – January 2018, national media coverage

That is a glowing comparison to receive, but shouldn’t be relied upon entirely. Maddison’s ability (as you might expect for a no.10) is built on a strong foundation of technical quality. That’s meant that Norwich have more or less built their team around him in an attacking sense.

However, this existing setup may embellish his true ability at this time. There’s an argument to suggest that it truly is easier to stand out when everybody around you works to give you a platform to succeed; take Maddison out of that system at a Premier League team, and there’ll no doubt be a minor drop in his goalscoring output. For instance, of Maddison’s 13 goals this season, four have come from the penalty spot, and a further three have come from outside the box via blistering shots. Placed in a team where, first, he isn’t penalty taker, or two, he isn’t granted a license to shoot from outside the box regularly, and there’ll be an inevitable regression in his goalscoring form.

Norwich poached Maddison from Coventry City for a fee rumoured to be around £3.5m, with a sell-on clause, in January 2016. Loaned back to Coventry and then also sent out to Aberdeen the following year, Maddison’s ascent has been facilitated by the faith shown in him by new German manager Daniel Farke.

This has been a breakout season for the youngster, but for the time being, his status and stock have yet to completely perforate the national football fans’ conscience and knowledge. In other words, most Premier League fans don’t seem familiar with him, yet. It took Alli one year in the Premier League (the 2016 -17 season) to essentially become a footballing ‘household’ name. Maddison is at a level below this, and will know that to truly kick on he needs to replicate this season’s form at the highest level.

The question now for Norwich fans is a matter of price. With the club’s status as a Championship side all but guaranteed after another ordinary mid-table finish, it’s difficult to see a Premier League team not making a move in the summer for fear of his value increasing further the longer he plays.

Most Norwich fans will probably hold out for something in the region of £20m, although as much as £30m has been banded about in some news spheres. That figure may sound inflated, but if Maddison truly is the new Dele Alli, that isn’t a huge amount to pay given his nascant age of 21.

Norwich fans find themselves compromised on this front. The better Maddison performs, the more likely he is to be sold, but then again, that will likely be at a higher price. Make no mistake though, with the club in their final year of parachute payments, the ascent of Maddison has been a huge success for a club and its youth strategy, a strategy which has just raised £5m via a fan bond scheme to invest in its academy. Rumour (granted, it’s a complete rumour) even has it the next Zlatan Ibrahimovic is currently plying his trade in the Canaries academy in the form Adam Idaha.

For now, Maddison remains the brightest light in a fading time for Norwich. His outstanding form means he’s inevitably coming to the Premier League soon; but to who, for how much, and how far he’ll go all remain to be seen.