At the end of a year in which his muscles and confidence have taken a battering, the Premier League’s answer to Kevin Pietersen is finally starting to play his shots again.
James Maddison is one of the most gifted playmakers in the English game and while he has yet to have the impact on international sport that Pietersen – one of England’s greatest batsmen – made, the similarities are there for all to see.
As was the case with Pietersen, you can’t take your eyes off Maddison when he plays. He has the same swagger, is a natural risk-taker and off the pitch, will speak his mind.
James Maddison (above) has looked his old self in Leicester’s last three matches
The flamboyance may grate for some yet life would be dull if everyone were the same. For every player who keeps his head down, does as he is told and never speaks out of turn, you need a Maddison or a Pietersen.
It is important to say at this stage that unlike Pietersen, Maddison has never had high-profile fall-outs with team-mates and is a popular member of the Leicester squad but he is just as important to this side as Pietersen was to the four Ashes-winning England teams he played in.
Maddison has looked his old self in Leicester’s last three matches and it is no surprise they have found the net nine times in those games, having managed only six in their previous six.
Maddison is like Kevin Pietersen, you can’t take your eyes off him when he is playing
The 25-year-old scored in both the 3-1 victory over Legia Warsaw and the 4-2 defeat of Watford (above), and also had three assists in those games
The 25-year-old scored in both the 3-1 victory over Legia Warsaw and the 4-2 defeat of Watford, and also had three assists in those games, the best of which was a sublime chipped pass for Jamie Vardy against the Hornets.
He then added his third goal in as many matches in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw at Southampton. After scoring in the 2-1 win at Brentford in October, Maddison admitted his self-belief had taken a knock when he had a second spell out with a hip injury, and when he could not rediscover top form on his return.
‘It’s probably the hardest (time) of my career just because people from the outside, they don’t know what goes on, they don’t know my life,” Maddison said. ‘I’m my own biggest critic. If you ask my family, my girlfriend, anyone, if I’ve had a bad game, I’ll watch the game straight away.
‘I had a good chat with the manager and I told him I was a little bit low on confidence. That’s the first time I’ve been able to hold my hands up and say that because it puts you in a bit of a vulnerable position.
He then added his third goal in as many matches in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw at Southampton
After scoring in the 2-1 win at Brentford in October, Maddison (above) admitted his self-belief had taken a knock when he had a second spell out with a hip injury
‘But that was me being honest. We looked at my best clips and what makes me a good player. He challenged me to get back to the level I know I can, to be one of the best in the Premier League.’
While a team player, Maddison is almost obsessive about his tally of goals and assists, just as Pietersen was about his batting statistics. He will want a big improvement on both totals yet the numbers – three goals, four assists – are now moving in the right direction.
When Maddison is playing well, Leicester attack well. Boss Brendan Rodgers knows this better than anyone and that is why, even though the Foxes were willing to listen to offers during the summer, they would not come to the table for anything less than £60million.
Arsenal were interested, but not at that price. While Maddison’s ability has never been in doubt, the same cannot be said of his judgement.
As a result, he sat down with Brendan Rodgers and watched the best clips of him playing
When Maddison was one of six Leicester players to break lockdown rules last April by attending a party, Rodgers said it was the lowest moment of him time as manager.
Maddison can afford no more such lapses if he is to fulfil his potential. Yet if Maddison can repeat last winter’s form over the next three months, he will surely have a chance of reviving his dream of playing for England.
Maddison should have more caps than the single one he earned more than two years ago, and has made no secret of his desire to add to that tally.
‘I know I can go and make an impact on the international stage,’ he told Sportsmail in an exclusive interview in November 2020. ‘It’s about taking that chance and I know I’m capable. Hopefully it will come around soon.’
If Maddison continues to play as he has in Leicester’s last three matches, he will make himself impossible to ignore. Exactly as Pietersen did.