Leicester City have taken their summer spending towards the £50m mark with the acquisition of attacking midfielder James Maddison from Norwich City.
The 21-year-old has signed for the Foxes on a five-year-deal for a reported £22m, which could rise to £24m with assorted add-ons.
Maddison is Claude Puel’s third signing of this transfer window following the captures of defenders Jonny Evans and Ricardo Pereira.
The England under-21 international produced some eye-catching performances for the Canaries last season and his underlying statistics make for fascinating reading.
With Riyad Mahrez’s future at the King Power Stadium uncertain, Maddison could be the Foxes’ creative spark in 2018/19: the young playmaker scored 14 goals and assisted a further eight strikes for Norwich in the Championship last season.
Upon signing for the Foxes, Maddison said:
I had a good chat with the manager about football and how he wants me to play, how he likes to play and I was sold.
I am a player who plays in the number 10 role mainly and likes to get fans off their seat with assists, goals and create chances.
Leicester would seem a good fit, then, for Maddison: Puel largely favoured a 4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1 last season with Mahrez, Shinji Okazaki, Demarai Gray and Kelechi Iheanacho used variously in “the hole” behind Jamie Vardy. With Mahrez generally deployed on the flank and indeed possibly on his way out of City this summer, Maddison could well see plenty of pitch-time next season – none of the other challengers for the number 10 role particularly convinced in that position in 2017/18.
The release of the Fantasy Premier League price list in July is eagerly anticipated, as Maddison could be a potential bargain in that mid-priced midfielder bracket – particularly if he is afforded set-piece duties by Puel next season.
Born in Coventry, Maddison began his football career with his hometown club and graduated through the Sky Blues’ academy. Maddison’s technique and vision were apparent from an early age and he first made the City bench as a 16-year-old in October 2013, though had to wait almost another year before making his first-team debut.
A League Cup tie against Cardiff City in August 2014 was Maddison’s first involvement at senior level, with his League One bow arriving two months later: Maddison was brought on as a 79th-minute substitute in Coventry’s 2-1 defeat at Crewe Alexandra. An assist and a goal (a free-kick against Oldham Athletic) in his next two league appearances hinted at things to come, but first suspension (after a dismissal in the Boxing Day defeat to Doncaster Rovers) and then injury decimated the rest of his campaign.
Maddison’s 2015/16 season began with three assists in as many matches, but once again injury was to blight the City prodigy – an ankle injury keeping Maddison out for four months until Christmas.
The teenage wunderkind’s potential had by that point attracted the attention of Norwich, then in the Premier League, who signed Maddison on the final day of the mid-season transfer window and loaned him back to Coventry.
Maddison scored on three occasions in 23 appearances for the League One club in 2015/16 but was made to wait even longer for his debut for the Canaries, being loaned out to Aberdeen for the first half of the 2016/17 season.
Appearing 14 times for the Scottish Premiership side, Maddison scored two goals and created a further seven in his four-month spell in the Granite City.
Making three substitute appearances for Norwich in the Championship upon his return south of the border, Maddison opened his Canaries account with a goal in the 3-1 win over Preston North End in April 2017.
Last season was undoubtedly Maddison’s breakthrough campaign: the young playmaker appeared in all-but-two of Norwich’s 46 league fixtures and was directly involved in 22 of their 49 goals.
A hat-trick in City’s 4-3 defeat to Hull City was undoubtedly the highlight of Maddison’s season, though he also registered goal-and-assist returns in no fewer than five Championship matches.
Maddison’s performances in 2017/18 led to international recognition with England’s under-21s and to him being awarded Norwich’s Player of the Year, while he was the only player to feature in the PFA Championship Team of the Year whose team finished in the bottom half of the table.
The Comparisons – 2017/18
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Mid-priced options in midfield were few and far between in FPL last season, with Pascal Gross flying the flag for those in the £6.0m bracket and Wilfried Zaha and Marko Arnautovic providing excellent (albeit at steeper prices) value in the second half of the campaign.
Maddison’s arrival at Leicester is, therefore, all the more intriguing: should the 21-year-old attacking midfielder be favourably priced in FPL and establish himself as a first-team regular in pre-season, there will be considerable interest from Fantasy managers looking for budget-freeing options in the centre of the park.
Leicester’s £22m man offers the possibility of attacking returns from a variety of situations. Two of Maddison’s 14 league goals last season came from free-kicks, with a further four being dispatched from the penalty spot.
Jamie Vardy, of course, is Leicester’s nominated penalty taker: the England striker took all six of City’s spot-kicks last season, scoring five of them.
It seems unlikely, therefore, that Maddison will usurp Vardy on penalty-taking duties, but Mahrez’s possible exit over the summer would create a void at other set-piece situations: Maddison had 28 free-kick attempts for Norwich in 2017/18.
Eight of Maddison’s Championship goals came from open play, meanwhile, with ten of his 14 strikes being dispatched from inside the penalty area – though dead-ball situations are key to his appeal, Maddison offers a genuine all-round goal threat.
Maddison’s total of 115 shots last season was bettered only by three other Championship players, while no player in the division hit the woodwork on more occasions (four).
Maddison’s creative potential is arguably even greater than last season’s assist count (eight) suggests. His total of 124 key passes, eight of which were big chances created, was the best in the Championship in 2017/18. Contrasting this with the number of chances created by Robert Snodgrass (91) and Barry Douglas (72), who both recorded a league-best 14 assists, suggests that poor finishing was largely to blame for Maddison’s single-figure assist tally. Indeed, only five Championship sides scored fewer goals than Norwich (49) last season. That the Canaries averaged 14.1 shots per match, the second-highest mean in the division, underscores this point.
Three of Maddison’s assists last season were from free-kick deliveries, with a further three of Norwich’s goals coming from his corners.
The fact that Maddison was the most-fouled player in the Championship last season strengthens his appeal. Maddison was fouled 147 times last season at a rate of 3.3 fouls per match; Joe Garner, who was fouled 104 times, was a distant second behind Leicester’s new recruit. Similar ill-discipline from opposition teams this season would increase the chances of Maddison collecting Fantasy assists from subsequently converted direct free-kicks and penalties.
With a pass completion rate of 86.2% and 3.5 dribbles attempted per match, Maddison could also fare well on the Bonus Points System.
No team outside the “Big Six” scored more Premier League goals than Leicester last season (56), while Mahrez and Vardy racked up 378 FPL points between them. The potential for a creative player like Maddison to accumulate a substantial points haul in this Foxes side is, therefore, considerable.
In addition, Leicester play only three of last season’s top six in their first 15 gameweeks – with a reasonable price tag, Maddison could quickly become a viable Fantasy option next season.