Noni Madueke: the English teenager who rejected the English giants to play at PSV Eindhoven

Madueke has scored twice in the Champions League qualifiers for PSV Eindhoven this season, but a play-off loss to Benfica means the Dutch side are now involved in the Europa League

About 140km west of Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park, where 18-year-old Jude Bellingham delights Bundesliga audiences, there’s another English teenage prodigy featuring a famous continental club: PSV’s Noni Madueke .

The 19-year-old Barnet-born had a broken campaign in the Netherlands last season, scoring nine goals and registering eight assists. His form earned him a call-up for the UEFA European Under-21 Championship last March and caught the attention of clubs at home and abroad.

And if his style of a straightforward, powerful and versatile striker sounds familiar to you, it’s because he was inspired by one of the biggest names in the Premier League.

“The person who made me want to play football was Cristiano Ronaldo when he played for Manchester United,” Madueke told BBC Sport. “He was my idol. I grew up watching him.”

Despite his United allegiance, Madueke rejected the opportunity to join them in favor of a change that he said served his progress better. He had thrived in Tottenham’s youth squads when, in the summer of 2018, at the age of 16, he decided to go in search of a faster path to senior football.

United were one of the many top clubs that wanted Madueke but went for the first-team route offered to PSV.

“Chelsea, Manchester United, a lot of European clubs [made offers]”, explains Madueke.

“I’ve been here once and as soon as I got there I wanted to sign right away. I knew moving from Tottenham to United was pretty much the same. The reason I wanted to go was to progress faster in the first team. PSV are a great European club. It made so much sense back then and it does make sense now. “

At PSV, Madueke was able to learn from the prolific feet of a Premier League big. He credits former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy – the manager of Jong PSV, the club’s second channel – for sharpening his scoring instinct.

“Ruud has helped me a lot,” says Madueke. “I was with him for almost two years, from my arrival until I made the first team. I sponged him and learned a lot.”

The justification for Madueke’s Dutch decision came quickly. He stood out in Under-19s and Jong PSV and made his first-team debut at 17, coming off the bench in a 1-1 draw with VVV-Venlo in January 2020.

The teenage winger’s ability to adapt to senior play came as no surprise to those who worked with him. He has always been ahead of development.

Noni Madueke signs a new contract
Madueke signed a four-year contract with PSV in August

“He always wanted to do more than everyone else,” recalls former Tottenham youth coach Justin Cochrane, now Manchester United. “If there was a player above him who was doing well, he would say, ‘I can score more goals than him.’ He’s pretty daring; a lot of self-confidence.

“He played in the under 14s and the under 15s at one point, and I remember a time when we had a reunion. He said, ‘What do I have to do to get into the under 16? ‘ I said, “If you score 10 goals in the next 10 games, you will play in the Under-16s. I think he has scored 12 goals in 10 games.”

“I’ve always played a year or two,” adds Madueke. “Playing against bigger, stronger and better opponents is nothing new to me. I think that’s why I adopted first-team football quite easily.”

Shortly after Madueke’s debut, the coronavirus pandemic struck. The Eredivisie season was suspended and then canceled. The youngster found himself far from home in the most uncertain times. His response was to do whatever he could to be ready for the resumption of football.

“I worked a lot during the pandemic,” he says. “I wanted to come back and make a mark in first team football. I came back and was able to make my mark right away. Now I keep going and keep going.”

This work has paid off. Madueke conquered a regular spot in PSV’s starting lineup, his form rewarded over the summer with a four-year contract and the number 10 shirt. “I wanted to wear the shirt because the best players wear those numbers and I expect a lot from myself, ”he says.

His best performance to date came in early 2021-2022, in the Johan Cruyff Shield – the Dutch equivalent of the Community Shield. PSV beat Ajax 4-0 with the Englishman scoring twice. It hasn’t been easy since. He suffered an irregular shape and minor injuries, but Madueke’s qualities continue to shine.

“He had times when he struggled, which is normal for a 19-year-old,” said Rik Elfrink, who covers PSV for the Eindhovens Dagblad newspaper. “His offense is of great quality, but he has a lot to learn in his defensive work. But I would say the plan [of joining PSV] worked almost perfect.

“Hard work, for him, is not a problem. He is a really dedicated guy. PSV is a good environment for him. If he goes to a big club in England later, he will be happy with it. to have started its development here. “

Noni Madueke (left) and Cole Palmer (right) celebrate a goal for England U21
Madueke played for England in a Euro U21 qualifier against Kosovo in September alongside Manchester City’s Cole Palmer, another player who has impressed this season.

If last year’s reports are to be believed, big clubs in England – and elsewhere – are watching. Tottenham, Manchester City, Paris St-Germain and Real Madrid are just a selection of the A-list names credited with an interest in Madueke.

But the ambitious, goal-oriented teenager is, for now, resolutely focused on the unfinished business in Eindhoven.

“I focus well on my own goals,” he says. “I set very high goals for myself. I write notes on what I want to do.

“I just want to win the league and the cup and do the best we can in the Europa League. From an individual point of view, I just want to improve my level a lot and score a lot of goals. That’s really all.”

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