It was a difficult start to life at Chelsea for Noni Madueke, who arrived halfway through comfortably their worst Premier League campaign in recent memory.
And as a young footballer with endless pressure on his shoulders, it would’ve been very easy for him to carry that into the summer, where he was expected to shine for England’s young lions at the under-21 European Championships.
But diamonds form under pressure, and Jay-Jay Okocha regens must do too, because that’s exactly the vibe Madueke has been giving off for Lee Carsley’s side on the right flank at the tournament.
England put the seal on a terrific group stage campaign by ensuring flawless passage into the knockout rounds of Euro 2023, thanks to a comprehensive 2-0 victory over Germany.
After a difficult win over Israel, a convincing performance and the scoreline to match the display was needed. But what also helped them along was Madueke, who was nothing short of imperious on the night, putting in a shift that will do nothing to help temper the expectations of Chelsea fans.
Germany, who knew they needed to win on the night, had their backs against the wall after just four minutes thanks to Cameron Archer’s early opener, and were resigned to needing a miraculous comeback after 21 minutes when Harvey Elliott made it 2-0.
That was job done for the night for Carsley’s men, but not for Madueke, who made it his own personal mission to give as many German defenders as possible a splitting headache, sore ankles and a desperate desire to hang up the boots and take an extended break from the game.
Seriously. Madueke was a menace.
Be it picking the ball up in his own half and evading the press with disgraceful ease, or hugging the touchline and running directly at his marker the minute the ball touched his boot, his tail was very much up. And off the back of a half-season at Stamford Bridge that could’ve knocked his confidence, it was incredibly encouraging to watch.
Nothing was quite as encouraging, though, as him turning up the heat to the highest setting, wiggling the analogue stick and going full Okocha with a little burst of skill to beat his man and get to the byline. Take a look.
Noni Madueke was on a different level against Germany at the under-21 European Championships.
— Planet Football (@planetfutebol) June 29, 2023
Stop that, Noni.
Everything about it is so perfect, from his nonchalant and unassuming gait, to the burst of pace and then the composure to stick the ball right into the danger zone after ticking all of the boxes.
The fact he didn’t get an assist from that moment of sheer wizardry is rather criminal.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Madueke’s flash of brilliance above was one of several throughout the night, where he tormented the opposition and had bags of fun doing it. In a rather sickening way, he thrived off it. And that’s exactly what Chelsea need from him heading into next season.
Unapologetic, unfiltered flair and a desire to leave defenders for dust, in a resurgent side with a point to prove. Mauricio Pochettino must’ve been licking his lips when he watched back Madueke’s highlight reel this morning.
There’s a new sheriff in town at Stamford Bridge, and he’s exactly the type of manager Madueke needs to fly. If there was ever a clip to warn Premier League defences, it was this one.
Madueke is only at the bottom of the mountain; when he’s climbed it, the Okocha comparisons will be gone – the 21-year-old will stand on his own as a star.