It may have been a difficult season so far for Leicester but James Maddison has been a starring light amid the gloom.
The midfielder once again shone in Monday’s 4-0 thrashing of Nottingham Forest, scoring two and setting up another to help lift the Foxes off the bottom of the table.
It means Harry Kane is the only other Englishman to have more goal involvements than the 25-year-old in the Premier League since the start of last season.
So with just seven weeks until the start of the World Cup, is Maddison hoping to make a late dash for Gareth Southgate’s squad for Qatar?
“That is an ambition of mine, it is a goal of mine,” Maddison told Sky Sports. “An opportunity at that level is one I would desire and one I know I would make an impact at.”
‘I have been as confident as I have ever been’
Maddison’s sole England cap came as a substitute against Montenegro in November 2019.
The previous month he was pictured in a casino after pulling out of a squad for a Euro 2020 qualifier against the Czech Republic, with Southgate later saying Maddison will have learned there is “increased interest” in England players.
Since then he has seen the likes Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount establish themselves in the Three Lions squad ahead of him.
However Maddison’s fine form could give Southgate something to think about.
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The former Norwich player has 17 goals and 10 assists in 42 appearances since the start of last season – more than Foden, Grealish and Mount.
Indeed his 14 goal involvements in his last 11 Premier League appearances going back to 11 May is bettered only by Manchester City’s superstar striker Erling Haaland.
What makes that form all the more remarkable is that it has come playing in a team that has struggled for results so far this campaign.
“It has been a weird position because we have been bottom of the league but I have been as confident as I have ever been,” said Maddison. “I don’t remember over the past 12 months playing better and feeling better.
“I am not naive, I know there are top, top players in the forward areas but I have a self-belief I am a top player and can be in that category.
“I have to force my way in because the players at the big clubs are in and they are top. I think there could be a space for me, so I will keep working hard.”
‘Maddison can change the course of a game’
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has endorsed Maddison’s World Cup ambitions despite the intense competition in that area of the pitch.
“I would really hope there’s a place for a player like that in a squad,” said Rodgers. “Someone so talented and such a hard worker and such a team player.
“Phil Foden is an amazing talent. Mason Mount I really like. Jack Grealish is a different type, but this is a player who can come in and change the course of a game.
“If he wasn’t starting a game, to have that on the bench to come into maybe a tight World Cup game is what a team like England needs.”
‘He has been a breath of fresh air’
Speaking on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football, former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said there should be a place for Maddison in Southgate’s squad based on his current form.
“There must be a place in the squad for him where you can pick from 26,” said Carragher. “He has been a breath of fresh air in terms of his interviews, he shows his personality and is honest. I wish more players were like it in the past.”
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville added: “There has to be a plan B and if you need a goal in a knockout or need something from a set-piece, you want someone who can change a game. He is in the best form.
“I don’t know any manager who has picked players on form so much [as Southgate]. James Maddison is in great form.”
‘Get Maddison on the plane’ – how social reacted
Benjamin: Get James Maddison on the plane.
Agada: And Gareth Southgate will continually neglect James Maddison!?
Scott: Wish England had a creative midfielder… Oh wait!
Josh: James Maddison always so elegant in his interviews, speaks so well. A model professional, a leader and an inspiration to the younger generation. Loved his interview tonight, that performance and the way he talks about the game, would be a real asset in that England team.
Reiss: Maddison has to be on that plane to Qatar! There’s no doubt about it. He looked a class above everyone else on that pitch tonight. His creativity would be vital for the England team.
Arjun: Maddison is cooking this season. Has to be in the England squad for Qatar.
Hays: Maddison to England is the direct no.10 they simply have nowhere else. Any competent manager would utilise him some way or another in their setup
Rob: He doesn’t just go for me he starts! 4-3-3 with Rice holding with Maddison & Bellingham either side of him.
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