Jonny Evans was reaching back to memories of talented team-mates at Manchester United and comparing them to James Maddison when the man himself appeared from Leicester’s dressing room.
‘He is a bubbly character,’ began Evans, before noticing the man of the match out of the corner of his eye. ‘And he has a bottle of bubbly as well!’
Clutching champagne under his arm and with hair ruffled, Maddison gave a boyish smile then dashed into the players’ lounge. He would not be speaking after his free-kick turned the game against Huddersfield in Leicester’s direction. He had made his statement on the pitch.
James Maddison has tricks and flicks, and could be the perfect fit for the England midfield
Jonny Evans gave his Leicester City team-mate high praise in a post-match interview
At United, Evans observed creative forces up close. Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Dimitar Berbatov, Carlos Tevez. So his words on the 21-year-old who is fast growing in stature at Leicester carry weight.
‘You can see his confidence when the ball came across and he did that Neymar thing with his leg behind the back of his other leg,’ said Evans, referring to the moment Maddison had the audacity to control a crossfield pass with a rabona. ‘I just started laughing in the game.
‘I’ve played at Manchester United and grown up with people expressing themselves. Sir Alex Ferguson always encouraged young players to entertain the crowd and it’s great that James can do that.
‘He has everything. After the first training session I thought, “This guy is a real talent”. He sees the ball on the half turn and he is always aware of where opponents are.
‘He has a lot of faith in his own ability. He is oozing with confidence. That can take a lot of players far in the game. He can come up with moments of brilliance.’
Maddison’s moment against Huddersfield was the 66th-minute free-kick he sent past Jonas Lossl. From a central position some 20 yards out Maddison did not quite place the ball into the top corner but the speed defeated Huddersfield’s goalkeeper.
James Maddison beat Huddersfield keeper Jonas Lossl with a free kick from 20 yards out
Maddison bossed the game, and picked up a man of the match award for his efforts as well
Disguise did for Lossl too because Maddison had struck two previous set-pieces very differently. A first was chipped over the wall for Jamie Vardy to volley, and a second was bent round the wall along the grass. Neither quite came off but they meant that the third, more of a classic strike, had an element of surprise.
‘That range and angle were probably better for him to shoot from,’ said Evans. ‘In the first half he came up with a great bit of imagination. It is difficult for the opposition to read.’
Claude Puel revealed that after training Maddison enjoys free-kick competitions against Vardy, Demarai Gray and even Harry Maguire.
Kelechi Iheanacho picked up the first goal, thanks to an incisive pass from Maddison
Evans added: ‘Usually I am far away but last week I stayed out to watch from close range. I am sure Madders has put on Instagram that he scored five in a row against the keeper. He has great technical ability and the one thing that matters is he is working really hard at it.’
Maddison, playing on the left to accommodate Kelechi Iheanacho in the No 10 role, was central to Leicester’s victory in open play too.
It was his incisive pass from Huddersfield’s corner that started the break for Iheanacho’s equaliser, after Mathias Jorgensen’s opening goal for the visitors, and he covered defensively as well.
Leicester City ended up comfortable 3-1 winners on the day, and sit in ninth in the league
Evans said: ‘Our manager is a very disciplined coach who wants players working hard and pressing and if Madders is not doing that I’m sure the team will make him aware.’
Gray and Ben Chilwell received England recognition for the recent friendly against Switzerland and Evans believes Maddison’s time will come soon.
‘I was surprised Madders didn’t get the call-up but I think it is all down to personnel,’ he said. ‘It won’t be long before he is in the England squad and showing everyone what he can do on a world stage.’
Vardy has retired from England duty and looked refreshed, scoring Leicester’s third with a brilliant dink finish after racing on to Iheanacho’s through-ball.
For Huddersfield, defeat means they have collected two points from six games. Keeping his team up a second time would be David Wagner’s biggest achievement.
‘It’s not concerning, that’s the life of an underdog,’ said Jorgensen. ‘We might take a different path this year but I’m confident that we’ll get where we want to be at the end of the season.’
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