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James Maddison is out of favour with England — but his sensational Leicester form is becoming hard for Gareth Southgate to ignore.
Though the Foxes are faltering in the Premier League, their midfield maestro continues to fire on all cylinders.
As a result, the clamour for Maddison’s inclusion in the Three Lions’ World Cup squad is growing with every positive performance.
Ahead of Leicester’s clash with Crystal Palace this afternoon, we consider whether the playmaker should be on the plane to Qatar.
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers heaped praise on Maddison after the Foxes’ recent 2-1 defeat at Bournemouth — reiterating his desire to keep him at the King Power Stadium despite interest from elsewhere.
He said: “My job is to coach him every day and make him the best he can be.
“It’s only natural you want your absolute best players to be here, and we keep saying that, but we keep losing them. He’s never a player you would want to lose.
“The beauty of James, and it’s the same with this England scenario, is that it hasn’t affected him. That’s where you see the level of maturity.
“James has been linked with loads of clubs. But he’s a realist. He also knows he’s in a good place to develop and learn.”
Maddison boasts two Premier League assists this term — but those numbers do not tell the full story.
Only five players in the division can boast a better expected assists tally than his 1.77 and just three (Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah and Gabriel Martinelli) have created more chances than his 19.
He is Leicester’s primary playmaker and is producing at an elite level, despite the struggles of the team around him.
Maddison is far from a one-dimensional player and is a dynamic presence on the pitch, looking to make things happen for his side in a variety of ways.
He connects midfield and attack with a high number of passes into the final third, having attempted 160 and completed 119.
The 25-year-old is also a threat from wide areas, both in open play and from dead-ball situations, attempting 35 crosses so far this season — though his success rate in that department has been low, with only six deliveries connecting with a team-mate.
If being the creative hub of his struggling side was not enough, Maddison also shoulders Leicester’s goalscoring burden.
He is their top scorer in the Premier League with five strikes and sits joint-seventh in the division.
His 25 shots and 10 on target are both team-leading totals — and both tallies also fall inside the top 10 players in the top flight.
That is particularly impressive given Maddison is a central midfielder — every other player to have outscored or outshot the Coventry native this term is either a centre forward or a winger.
Maddison’s threat from distance and direct free-kicks make him a particularly unique weapon.
Based on England’s final two Nations League games before the World Cup, it would appear that Gareth Southgate is likely to utilise a 3-4-2-1 formation this winter.
That is bad news for Maddison, as it reduces the number of attacking midfielders the Three Lions boss will bring to Qatar, with his system creating an extra space for central defenders.
He has strong competition for a role with Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden surely nailed-on selections — barring injury — and Mason Mount also a Southgate favourite.
Maddison will have to continue his outstanding performances for the next month, if he is to have any chance of displacing the regular selections.
But even if he cannot climb the pecking order, making himself the obvious alternative to any of those four in the event of an injury can only boost his prospects.
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