When 17-year-old Jadon Sancho left Man City for Borussia Dortmund in 2017, it was viewed as an immensely brave move; a leap of faith not generally made by English youngsters. In the three years since, however, it’s become clear that Sancho truly paved the way for this movement. Over the last few seasons, a flurry of young, exciting English talents have done the same, leaving their comfort zones for a new club abroad. Marcus Edwards left Spurs for Portuguese side Vitória; Jude Bellingham switched from Birmingham to Dortmund; Josh Maja went from Sunderland to Bordeaux; and Noni Madueke packed his bags at Tottenham in the summer of 2018, moving to Dutch side PSV on a free transfer, seeking a more attainable route to first-team football and a club that would cultivate his bright talent. Fast-forward two and a half years, and the Englishman is one of the Eredivisie’s most promising youngsters.
Upon his arrival at PSV, Madueke joined the U17 side for the beginning of the 2018/19 season, but was quickly promoted to the U19 side after 3 goals in as many games. Midway through the next season, he had scored 9 goals in 11 games, prompting a call-up to the Jong PSV squad (who play in the 2nd division). 4 goals in 6 games there prompted his call-up as an official member of the first-team squad in March 2020. He hasn’t looked back since.
The Lowdown on PSV
PSV are one of the youngest and most exciting sides in Europe. Led by former RB Salzburg and Bayer Leverkusen manager Roger Schmidt, the German encourages an aggressive, high-energy pressing system very much in the mould of Jurgen Klopp. The squad is built up by a number of talented young players and some experienced, proven pros. Last summer, their recruitment saw the arrival of potential stars like Ibrahim Sanagre, and smart, affordable older players such as Mario Gotze and Eran Zahavi. The gems already at the club, however, is really what makes the Dutch side stand out. Aside from Madueke, the likes of Donyell Malen, Cody Gakpo, and Mohamed Ihattaren look set for big futures at the top level.
Roger Schmidt has been very calculated in his use of Madueke, primarily introducing him off the bench to trouble tired legs in the 2nd half of matches. Madueke’s explosive burst of pace, directness, and ability to use both feet make him an invaluable asset for the Eredivisie side that sit just one point behind league-leaders Ajax. The young Englishman’s goals and assists per 90 record (he’s played 6.6 90s this season) is extremely impressive — he ranks 4th in the league in both categories.
The first thing you’ll notice when watching Madueke is the supreme confidence he boasts when on the ball. This, paired with good close control and dribbling, makes him lethal in 1v1 situations. Explosive from a standing start and lengthy in his strides, his ability in progressing the ball is very much in the mould of some of the best around, and strikes us as the left-footed version of Crystal Palace’s Eberechi Eze, due to the way he carries the ball with such gait and confidence.
Beyond a knack for beating his man, Madueke has proven this season that he can be a constant threat, no matter what position he plays. Most often deployed on the right of the front four, he’s also filled in as one of the two forwards. His influence in primarily cameo appearances shows just how special he is, and his ability to find holes between the opposition midfield and backline, receive the ball on the half turn, and notice the right moments to take space in pockets or run in-behind is quite impressive.
Once he gets himself in dangerous positions, he’s showcased real individual ability and confidence in front of goal. 6 goals and 6 assists in 19 games (Eredivisie and Europa League) this season speaks for itself — he’s incredibly efficient both in his chance creation and finishing. Madueke has shown his ability with both feet in his finishing, often beating a man to create space for himself or latching onto the end of cutbacks or short passes after picking up smart positions in the area. His shots are often assertive, confident, and hit with real conviction; and although he can sometimes rush when presented with chances, his shooting ability is really encouraging for an 18-year-old in his first full season in senior football.
His assists, however, catch our eye the most. He’s got great spatial awareness, times his runs very well, and Noni has now made it routine to play extremely quickly once receiving the ball. This results in nicely weighted through balls, effective one-touch passes, smart layoffs, and fizzed balls across the six-yard box.
Madueke does not yet involve himself much in the first and second phases of play, instead preferring to receive the ball in more advanced areas of the pitch or picking it up in transition and driving from deep. He averages 34 passes per game, but as you can see from his touch map, they’re predominantly in the final third and largely short or medium length passes.
Areas to Improve On
Now, despite all our praise for Madueke’s output this season, there are areas he needs to work on. His actual combination play isn’t consistently good, and relies on individuality to create chances more often than not. He frequently tries to dribble when a pass is the answer. When looking at his chance creation, his assists usually come from moments where he makes a point to play simply.
As Roger Schmidt’s system is founded in the gegenpress, Madueke thrives in situations where he can pick the ball up and drive into vacated space in transition. However, as PSV often dominate possession (56.5%), the chaos-ridden transition phase comes along less often than usual. Madueke’s direct attacking isn’t always needed, potentially hence why he doesn’t start every game (aside from his age, of course). His dribbling may be fantastic, but patience and possession are virtues, especially in the Dutch game.
It is also important to note that his defensive contribution isn’t as meaningful as his manager may like. This means his appearances come in the form of impact substitutions, when his attacking output can exploit tired defences. His positional awareness when tracking back isn’t up to par yet, and he fails to read defensive transitional cues.
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. PSV have a great chance at qualifying for the Champions League next season, giving him an even bigger platform to showcase his ability. Making waves in the Eredivisie and the Europa League, Noni Madueke has announced himself as one to watch.