Drifting out to the left of midfield at Etihad Stadium, James Maddison holds his run. He checks his surroundings and knows he’s in space, before collecting the ball and heading towards goal.
The Manchester City defenders back away in fear, already shell-shocked at seeing their early lead dissipate after conceding three goals either side of half time. But they were only inviting more misery. Maddison closes in, opens up his body and curls a sumptuous shot past a helpless Ederson.
It was 27 September, 2020, and Leicester inflicted a 5-2 defeat on Pep Guardiola, his worst at home since arriving in the Premier League.
Jamie Vardy had scored a hat-trick, but Maddison’s goal – his first since January that year – had everyone talking. Alongside Jack Grealish and Phil Foden, he was in the conversation for a playmaking spot in England’s Euro 2020 squad.
Since then, things have changed. The 24-year-old’s form has become less consistent, and he was hampered badly by a hip injury, which disrupted his run in to the summer. Leicester won the FA Cup, beating Chelsea 1-0 in the final, but Maddison’s fitness restricted him to a cameo appearance at Wembley.
Injuries weren’t the only issue; the harsh reality was he’d fallen behind Grealish and Foden considerably by the end of the season. The Foxes’ failure to secure a Champions League spot – despite sitting in the top four for most of the campaign – was a damaging blow. When Gareth Southgate named his England squad for the Euros and Maddison wasn’t in it, there was no ripple of opposition. It was the same on Thursday when he was omitted from the 25-man party for next month’s World Cup qualifiers.