- United are the bigger club but they are also treading water.
- Leicester will almost certainly be in the Champions League next season.
- A move to Old Trafford would represent a step down for a player on the up.
Manchester United are used to getting their way in the transfer market. Not many players have turned down a move to Old Trafford in the past. When they have – as in the cases of Matt Le Tissier, Alan Shearer and Paul Gascoigne – they have often missed out on bucket-loads of trophies. Even so, James Maddison should add his name to the above list this month.
It may not come to that. To even have the chance to speak to Maddison, United must have a bid accepted by Leicester. As Brendan Rodgers said this week, the Foxes are under no pressure to sell one of their most valuable assets.
Nevertheless, in the modern market footballers can do plenty to influence their futures. Agents can push stories in the press. Players themselves can give cryptic or non-committal interviews. If the situation gets desperate, they can hand in a formal transfer request.
Maddison should do none of the above. Leicester, not United, is the best place for him to be right now.
A tremendous talent
Leicester are enjoying a magnificent season. Rodgers’ side sit second in the Premier League standings. They are 13 points adrift of leaders Liverpool but 14 clear of United in fifth place. Champions League qualification already looks near-certain.
Maddison has played a key role in his side’s lofty position. He has scored six goals and provided three assists. He has created 49 chances for team-mates and drawn 61 fouls. Only four players in the division average more than his 2.5 key passes per game.
United struggle to improve players
Those are impressive figures, particularly for a player who is still only 23. In theory, Maddison should get even better in the coming seasons. It is therefore no surprise that United are keen to bring him to Manchester.
Maddison, though, should take a close look at the Red Devils’ record with recent signings. It is too early to judge Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Dan James, all of whom moved to Old Trafford just a few months ago. But elsewhere in the squad, there is very little evidence of United players enhancing their reputations during their time at the club.
It is clear that the 20-time English champions are under-performing. They are among the world’s richest clubs but have not even launched a title challenge since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. Five points adrift of Chelsea in fourth place, they could soon be facing up to a second successive season without Champions League football.
Maddison should not wait for United
There is little sign that United will be competing for the game’s biggest prizes any time soon. Solskjaer is not an elite manager. Ed Woodward is an astute businessman but ill-qualified to lead the club’s recruitment. United are still without a director of football. And the Glazers appear to prioritize profit over performance.
If United were on the rise again, it would be an exciting project to be a part of. But it is stagnation, not success, that is in the air at Old Trafford. Maddison cannot afford to waste precious years treading water while Solskjaer continues with his unconvincing attempts to restore the club to its former glories.
It would be naive to think that Maddison envisages seeing out his career at the King Power Stadium. Leicester are flying high at present but the attacking midfielder will have his heights set even higher. Performing well in the Champions League next term would further strengthen his standing within the game.
A move to Manchester United, conversely, would represent a backwards step. If it comes to it, Maddison must reject their advances.