Paddy Davitt: A shimmering star and the sobering reality collide at Norwich City
James Maddison departed for the Premier League after repaying Norwich City’s faith many times over. Paddy Davitt assesses how big an impression he left and what his legacy may be in the years ahead
You can debate whether James Maddison will be remembered as the best ever Norwich City player. What is not in doubt he is the most valuable.
Not simply measured in a club record fee with Premier League Leicester City for the 21-year-old’s services.
But perhaps the sheer, breathtaking scale of the mark up on the sum paid to Coventry City after one full season of football.
That inflation may reflect the transfer market as a whole, where eight figures appears the going rate for a top flight footballer with plenty still to prove.
But to secure a deal in the region of ten times the Canaries’ initial outlay speaks volumes for Stuart Webber’s negotiating skills as it does Maddison’s stellar breakthrough at Carrow Road.
There should be plenty more chapters left to write.
Maddison has the family network, the astute representatives and a maturity beyond his years to maximise the innate talent.
The manner he carried Daniel Farke’s squad for the duration underlined the broadness of his shoulders and that deep well of self-belief he backed himself to carry the responsibility as the main creative pivot in a fitful journey under the head coach’s stewardship.
There is a train of thought Norwich’s general play may now benefit from the almost total reliance on Maddison for large swathes of the season.
That may be a stretch.
Any dressing room shorn of the midfielder’s craft and invention is all the poorer, but once Webber and Farke have sourced new faces that theory can be put into practice.
Norwich have no other choice now. The departure of Maddison, following on from Josh Murphy - also to the Premier League with Cardiff City - deprives the existing squad of the majority of last season’s goals and assists, which compared to the rest of the Championship were still in short supply.
The house-keeping performed to this stage of the summer swiftly needs to become a re-stocking of the shelves.
Maddison will rightly leave with the best wishes and thanks of a grateful support, for the genuine moments of exhilarating enlightenment he served up in an otherwise unfulfilling mid-table voyage.
The derby winner at Ipswich lacked the majesty of his brilliant goals against Middlesbrough or Brentford, but it gold-plated his legacy in these parts. Those who have performed with distinction against the bitter foe are guaranteed a special place in the affections.
In years to come, should Maddison reach his fullest potential, there can be a sense of pride at the role played by the Canaries. Farke gave him his trust and supporters embraced the young, fresh-faced midfielder in their midst.
Maddison made it clear towards the end of the last season - after the closure of the January transfer window provided a blessed lull in the incessant focus on his next career move - that he would be the master of his own destiny this summer.
Looking from the outside, Leicester seem a good fit.
With Riyad Mahrez’s pending departure there is a vacancy for a new puppet master.
Maddison may be a different player entirely but he has the potential to exert the same influence.
He needs to get fully fit, first and foremost, as he recovers from that knee ligament injury on the final day at Hillsborough which doubled as his Norwich swansong.
Then he will inevitably need a period to acclimatise to the step up in class.
But he is joining an established top flight club who retain the core of a group of players who lifted that remarkable Premier League crown.
Whether Claude Puel remains at the helm or not is immaterial in this modern football environment, where so much of the power now resides below and above the person in the dugout.
What matters more is the Foxes harbour a greater ambition than simply survival. Maddison will get the regular exposure he requires on the pitch and then it is up to him to take his chance - just like he did 12 short months ago in Norfolk.
The youngster’s very best days lie ahead.
That will be a source of much regret to a fan base who not so long ago may have felt they could emulate Leicester’s Premier League longevity.
Webber himself said after January came and went, with Maddison still on board, the time would come when the England Under-21 starlet may outgrow his current surroundings.
That time is now. But in both footballing and financial terms, City are all the richer for launching the 21-year-old into the stratosphere.
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