Recently, I’ve been teaching my husband about Neighbours. Not the people who live next door to us, but the Australian soap opera, because over his Christmas break he saw me watching it and I made the mistake of explaining one affair-in-the-making storyline, and things have spiralled.
We now share a love of Neighbours, and it’s down to Shane, Dipi and Roxy. Now those names will probably mean nothing to you, so let’s use some that will. James Maddison, Leicester City and Manchester United.
You see, what’s happening is Shane, or James Maddison for the purposes of this, is in a lovely relationship with Dipi (Leicester City). However, Roxy (Manchester United) has been sniffing around him and his head is getting a little bit turned. People are now starting to notice, and Leicester are getting a little bit concerned.
Now on paper, you think why on earth would someone who’s in a good, stable relationship have their head turned by something else which, with no disrespect to Roxy or indeed Manchester United, is pretty unstable at the moment, lurching from one disaster to the next and really not a smart move. However, as we all know, in both soap and football land, things are never straight forward and plenty of people have made the mistake before thinking the grass is greener, only for their dreams to blow up in their face.
Maddison is at such a crucial point in his career, a bad move now would be deadly. Yes, he’s become one of the best midfielders in the Premier League and has certainly risen to prominence, with England call-ups at the ready, but he’s still so young. It’s very easy to forget exactly how young - he’s just turned 23-years-old.
Now I don’t know about you, but at 23 I was out there making plenty of mistakes and still navigating my way through life, and without good people around me, I’m not sure what would have happened. Maddison turning up at a casino following withdrawal from the England squad shows he’s not reached peak maturity yet and needs people to help him.
When you’re young, you need the right support system around you, and it’s crucial you’re allowed to develop properly. Maddison has this at Leicester City and under Brendan Rodgers. Once a manager so mocked, Rodgers has proven himself ten times over, and has a good track record of developing players. He clearly cares about Maddison and is a good manager to boot.
on our last visit to Turf Moor...
Can you say the same about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who seems to think it’s a positive thing Manchester City played nearly a first XI in the Carabao Cup against his Man United side? Meanwhile, Brendan Rodgers is fighting for a place in the top two and making sure his side try and break goalscoring records in a single game. Levels.
Of course, as soapland teaches us, sometimes relationships do fall apart and people grow complacent and get stuck in a rut (Susan and Karl, circa Izzy 03/04, I’m looking at you) and the same goes for footballers. It is often the case top players need to leave a club to develop - Raheem Sterling certainly did, and if Liverpool were currently at that same level, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and plenty more would be looking elsewhere. However, they’re not. They are a top club now, and suited to those players.
Maddison does not need to leave Leicester. They’ve developed and grown much like he has, and will be playing Champions League football next season. Manchester United will be lucky to play in the Europa League. Maddison would be going in at Manchester United as someone expected to transform a team who are seriously lacking in plenty of areas and are a mess on and off the field.
That’s not what he needs - he needs to focus on him, his growth and his development, and right now, he’s in the perfect place for it. In fact, despite the crowd size and their trophy haul, you could easily argue going to Manchester United would be a step down for him in terms of what they can offer on the field and coaching.
Of course, there’s still a bit of time to go in the transfer window and season yet and far wilder things have happened in Neighbours than a possible affair storyline. For example, David Tanaka just recovered from an infection, kidney failure and a transplant and was home within a few days.
How Jose Mourinho must be wishing Harry Kane had a medical team that good!