Noni Madueke was one of the very few bright(-ish) spots of the latter half of last season, playing with the sort of youthful enthusiasm and endeavor that had largely been sapped from the rest of the squad by the physical and emotional travails of that campaign.
After joining from PSV in the winter transfer window, Madueke would make twelve appearances under Graham Potter and Frank Lampard, starting five of our last six Premier League games even (scoring once). He wasn’t exactly prime Arjen Robben, but there were glimpses aplenty to show just why we might have plunked down the cash to get the former Crystal Palace and Tottenham youth product back to London. (And that certainly wasn’t true of every signing we made last year, most of whom cost more than Madueke’s €33m transfer fee.)
The 21-year-old followed up that modicum of success at club level with great success at the youth international level, winning the U21 Euros with England (alongside fellow Blue, Levi Colwill). Madueke’s involvement did wane as that tournament went on — although only a wondersave prevented him from scoring in the final — and that trend has unfortunately continued at club level.
Under Mauricio Pochettino, Madueke has made just eight appearances, starting two games (one each in the League Cup and the League). And it’s not just Pochettino who doesn’t seem to rate him: he’s the lowest rated of any player (min. two appearances) in our Community Player Ratings so far.
Madueke has had to deal with a couple minor injuries, in fairness, but clearly things have not gone the way we might have imagined back in the spring and summer. Of players we would consider part of the first-team, only Carney Chukwuemeka and backup goalkeeper Djordje Petrović have played less. And Chuk has been injured basically all season.
That’s a long-winded lede to get to the point of this story: ESPN claim that we would not be averse to sending Madueke on loan this January “if a suitable offer arrives”. Presumably the criteria for “suitable” is simply being based in England (so that we don’t take up a FIFA loan-spot, which we don’t have at the moment), and maybe offering a bit of wage contribution as well. ESPN seem to hint that we wouldn’t be averse to actually letting Madueke leave for good (Graham Potter “pushed hard for the signing”, apparently), but Noni’s on one of them seven-year contracts, so that’s probably not happening. (Such loopholes; much wow!)
Madueke is just one of the more extreme examples of how spending big money and giving out big contracts is no guarantee of immediate big rewards. It’s obviously far too early to give up on him however, so perhaps a loan would indeed be best for all involved.