Alasdair Hooper looks at how James Maddison’s loan spell at Aberdeen lead to his move to Leicester City.
Leicester City midfielder James Maddison has quickly established himself as one of the most exciting stars in the Premier League.
At just 23, the Foxes’ number 10 is an integral cog in Brendan Rodgers’ team and has plenty of fans – whether you’re a Leicester supporter or not.
He has already made his England debut and, before the coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a halt, plenty were calling for him to be a part of the England squad for the European Championships.
Now that he has an extra year on his side, there is still every chance he will go on to be a key figure at international figure.
But the rise of Maddison, who started his career coming through the youth ranks at Coventry City, can be traced back to a vital six-month loan spell at Aberdeen.
Without that you could argue we don’t see the Maddison that we do today.
For those who knock Scottish football it’s also a huge reminder of what the Premiership can offer, and something other clubs should perhaps think about doing more regularly in Scotland’s top tier.
After breaking into the Coventry team as a youth graduate plenty of clubs could see the potential in the young player.
In 2016, during the January transfer window, it was Premier League club Norwich City who made their move and signed the midfielder before immediately loaning him back to the League One side.
But, after he joined up permanently, he could barely get a game at his new club – as is so often the case with many young and talented players.
He went to see then-manager Alex Neil and asked to go on loan. After going through all his options Aberdeen was seen as the best choice and he joined them at the start of the 2016/17 season.
“It was my choice to go there but I think it will toughen you up, if you went to League One it would toughen you up and I don’t think Scotland is just the place for that,” Maddison told The Press and Journal back in 2018.
“It did toughen me up because I took a lot of kicks, a lot of knocks, had a few little scraps with big Scottish guys on the pitch, I learnt a lot, toughened up, went back to Norwich and the following season I had a really good season and got a move to the Premier League.”
But Maddison more than toughened up while playing for Derek McInnes’ Aberdeen side.
He added flair, creativity and excitement and managed to leave a lasting impression on Dons fans.
The everlasting highlight was Maddison’s last-minute winner against Rangers in September 2016 – a simply stunning free kick that sent the Pittodrie crowd wild.
There was also a screamer of a goal against Ross County, which featured on the SPFL’s official Twitter page as they looked back on some of the league’s best loan signings.
Much to Aberdeen fans’ delight Maddison – who was playing for Leicester at that point – tweeted in response “Once a Don.”
It showcases that the playmaker knows his spell in Scotland made him into the footballer he is now.
When he was asked in The Press and Journal interview if his loan move to Aberdeen prepared him for the Premier League and international football, Maddison replied: “Yes, definitely.
“I mean, I was an 18-year-old lad playing in a Scottish League Cup final at Hampden in front of 60,000 against Celtic and that’s an experience I will never forget.
“Coming out to a big firework display and the fans were in full voice because they (Celtic) won 3-0. That’s an experience I wouldn’t have got by staying in England in the lower leagues.”
After his exhilarating six-month stay came to an end Maddison still had to bide his time before making his debut for Norwich in April 2017.
But once Daniel Farke came in as manager everything changed and the midfielder became a regular in the Championship side the following year, going on to win the club’s Player of the Season award.
Leicester then made their move and, less than two years after he was heading to the Granite City on loan, Maddison was being paraded as a £20million Premier League signing.
Once football resumes, perhaps other young talents struggling for game time should consider making a similar move.
You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992