How Noni Madueke holds PSV Eindhoven’s Champions League fate

The Anglo-Nigerian forward has had a blistering start to the new season for the Dutch giants.

PSV forward, Noni Madueke. [skysports]

While not one of the richest, PSV Eindhoven is certainly one of the biggest clubs in Europe, thanks to them feeding the richer sides with talent from time to time.

One thinks of Ronaldo, Park Ji-sung, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Romario, Mark van Bommel, Jaap Stam, Arjen Robben, Ruud Gullit, Ronald Koeman, Phillip Cocu among many others who all shone at the Philips Stadion and went on to achieve bigger things.

Being the biggest and most successful side in the Netherlands after Ajax Amsterdam, PSV have been a regular fixture in the Champions League. Its after all where the aforementioned names made their marks.

Their highest point in the competition under the current format came during the 2004-05 season where they reached the semi-finals but lost out to AC Milan.

They’ve been unable to reach such heights since then and have even struggled to qualify for the European elite competition, last featuring during the 2018-19 campaign. The 2019-20 season saw them crash out of the qualifiers while their most recent one was Europa League participation from the beginning.

PSV are one step away from the Champions League group phase this time around but will have to work hard after losing 2-1 at Portuguese fights Benfica in the first leg of the final qualification round last week.

They play the return leg in Eindhoven on Tuesday and know they can’t leave anything to chance as they need to win by at least a two goal margin if they want to be part of the teams that will be in the pot for Thursday’s draw in Istanbul.

Those hopes will hinge largely on one man in Noni Madueke.

The 19-year-old forward has started the season like a house on fire, already scoring six goals and providing one assist in eight appearances. He played 74 minutes against Benfica last week and found the back of the net in previous qualifiers against Galatasaray and FC Midtjylland.

Madueke has also scored twice in as many Eredivisie games, as well as a brace in the 4-0 whooping of eternal rivals Ajax in the Dutch Super Cup.

Born in the London suburb of Barnet to Nigerian parents, Madueke began his career at youth with Tottenham. He moved to PSV in 2018 at the age of 16 and steadily built his way up the ranks. After making his debut during the 2019-20 season with four league outings, Madueke took his game up a notch the season after by having a hand in 17 goals (nine goals, eight assists) in 32 competitive appearances as PSV finished second in the Eredivisie and reached the Europa League round of 32.

“It’s massive for me and for the club,” Madueke said on PSV’s European campaign this season.

“I want to take that next step. I played in the Europa League last year. This year I want to play in the Champions League, against the best players in the world, and show everyone how good I am against them.”

Madueke has certainly taken his game even further with a number of clubs that include his old side Tottenham, Manchester United, Leicester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bayern Munich Juventus, Roma and Atalanta all rumoured to be interested in securing his services. That would be a good step for Madueke’s career should any of such move materialise, but he’s focused on PSV and their season objectives for now.

“Talk about other clubs being interested doesn’t really affect me. I’m still here and ready to focus on the season,” he stated.

“It’s great that the manager didn’t want me to go. He has shown great trust in me early on.

“I already feel that I’m not a young kid. I have major responsibilities this year that I need to make sure I’m prepared for, every game.

“I’m one of the players that team-mates look to, to get us out of difficult spots and make something happen.”

Madueke’s form will also put his international career into perspective. Eligible to play for either England or Nigeria. He claims the latter are yet to approach him

“There’s been no contact at the moment from them [Nigeria]. The time for those decisions to be made I don’t think is now,” he said.

This leaves the door wide open for Madueke to play for England. He’s done so at U-21 level and other age grade categories and will see it as a dream to play for the Three Lions at the World Cup in Qatar next year after they reached the semi-finals in Russia in 2018 and made it to the Euro finals this summer but lost to Italy via penalties.

“England had a great balance and a great team spirit, it seemed from the outside. They did the whole nation proud,” Madueke exclaimed.

“It was unfortunate how it ended but it was a solid foundation to build on and try to win the next World Cup.

“If I’m winning games with my club, if I could be at the World Cup in 15 months, it would be great.”

Should Madueke switch allegiance to England, which would be the more obvious juicier option, it will add to a growing list of players of Nigerian descent to pledge loyalty to the Three Lions from Tammy Abraham, Bukayo Saka, Fikayo Tomori, Dele Alli among others who are uncapped but have their minds made up.

It’s not a top priority right now though for Madueke as he’s previously stated. The big mission is to get a win at Philips Stadion on Tuesday night, and all eyes will be on the emerging talent to get PSV over the line with the consistency he’s shown.

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Kunle is an avid writer with interest in topics on sports, politics and health. His articles have featured in Goal.com, Opera News and Vanguard News. He holds a Bachelors and Masters degree in International Relations and is an advocate for people living with Hydrocephalus and other neurological conditions.

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