“I’m a bit of a showman”, says Noni Madueke sky sports when asked to sum up his game. “I try to beat the players. I’m quick. I have an eye for goal. That’s how I would describe myself.”
It’s not arrogance. He is humble but confident, and that confidence is justified. The 20-year-old Londoner has enjoyed huge success since leaving Tottenham for PSV almost three years ago – rejecting the chance of a move to Manchester United.
Madueke is back in England for his first professional game against an English opponent when PSV take on Leicester City in the Europa Conference League quarter-final on Thursday. This is just the next experience for one of English football’s bright young talents.
It was the chances that persuaded him to move to Eindhoven in the first place. He has made over 60 appearances for the 1988 European Cup winners since his debut over two years ago. The justification for his bold choice is obvious.
“I’ve been in a first-team environment since I was 17,” he says.
“I don’t think I would have known first-team football at that age in England. That’s the main thing. I just liked the aura of the club. From the moment I arrived here, I liked the aura right away. It just felt like the right next step.”
The most significant moment so far came in August when he scored twice in a 4-0 thrashing against Ajax in the Dutch Super Cup. It was a man of the match performance. “It was the highlight of my years here. It was the first trophy I won in my professional career.”
The first of a long series ? It seems without a doubt. There is a steely pragmatism in Madueke. He doesn’t romanticize his move abroad, instead downplaying the importance of a young man living alone in another country. He does what he has to do to succeed.
When asked if it was a challenge for him to leave home at such a young age, it’s clear. “Off the pitch, not really. I think if I was in England it would be pretty much the same. Going abroad when you’re young takes a bit of heart. Other than that, this is no different.
“I definitely saw a different side of life and had to adapt. There was a change in culture. But I’m an easy-going person and I can live anywhere, so it wasn’t that hard I live alone but I see my family enough Everyone speaks English so it’s pretty easy.
“I feel like I’m coming here for a job, to do the job. It was a change for my career, so I just thought I’d make the most of it. I wasn’t really worried about leaving London or whatever. thing like that. I just knew. I was focused. I wanted to get the job done.
His first season was spent with the development squad, working under Ruud van Nistelrooy, honing his craft under the former Manchester United striker. “He’s a legend of the game so it was an honor and he’s still a great finisher. He helped me a lot with that.”
The breakthrough came last season when he was PSV’s third top scorer in the Eredivisie with seven goals despite starting just seven of the team’s 34 matches. Roger Schmidt, the club’s experienced coach, taught him another side of the game.
“He helped me with my job of losing possession, pressing and being connected to the other players on the pitch so I could get the ball back as quickly as possible. Two years later I’m a bit more polished in my game That’s the difference now.
“When you’re 18 coming into the first team you’re a bit raw. I’m probably a more decisive player than two years ago. My biggest strengths are still my speed and my dribbling but I would say my end product is good as well now.”
He names Cristiano Ronaldo as his childhood favorite and there are signs of that in his game. He shoots from inside the box more often than any other PSV player and also dribbles more. No Eredivisie player has done so many dribbles in 90 minutes.
However, it has not been easy since that day against Ajax. Madueke has missed much of the winter due to injury. “It was tough, but now I got over it and was able to play the second half of the season without any problems,” he said.
In particular, he caught the eye in both of the England U21 side’s games last month.
“It was fun. Two games, two wins.
“It’s definitely been a progressive year.”
The opportunity to play alongside Mario Gotze – who scored the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final – has also been positive, with the pair developing a good understanding. “We have a fairly young team, so Mario has definitely been an influence with his experience.”
It could be decisive against Leicester. Madueke’s father and brother will be there at King Power Stadium but – usually – the player himself has a laser-like focus.
“It’s definitely a great game. I’m going home. It’s my first game against an English team. It will be another experience but I just see it as another game that we have to win.
“Leicester are a good team. But so are we.”
It has already been confirmed that PSV will be coached by Van Nistelrooy next season with the departure of Schmidt. Madueke expects him to thrive in his first senior coaching role.
“It will be interesting to see how he does. I feel like he will be fine. He is well equipped. Everyone respects him a lot for what he has achieved in the game, so the players will certainly accept him. Tactically he also has good ideas as a coach, so he will be fine.”
Whether Madueke will still be at PSV remains to be seen.
Brendan Rodgers’ side are just one of the Premier League clubs who have been linked with a move for him this summer. It’s only a matter of time before he returns to England. “I really want to play there next.” He doesn’t know when that will be yet.
“Whether it’s this summer or whenever, for now I’m focused on the rest of the season. It’s definitely one of my ambitions to play there. I’ve had a boost in my career by playing a lot of games at a young age. I feel like I’ll be ready for any step I take.
There is this confidence. He just needed an opportunity.
His next will come in Europe against Leicester on Thursday night. Just another game. Just another chance for Noni Madueke, this determined showman, to take the stage.