Central Jackson Soccer Organization

Thursday, Jan 23, 2020

Five years ago Harry Maguire was playing League One football. Now he is on the verge of becoming the world’s most expensive defender.

Manchester United are set to complete the £80m signing of the 26-year-old Leicester and England player, but is he worth the money?

We takes a look at the stats and the story behind the player.

‘A student of the game always destined for the top’

Think of the best players in the world and you will think of those who excel in all the attributes needed for their position on the pitch – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are nigh-on-perfect forwards while Kevin de Bruyne’s skills, goals and passing ability makes him a world class midfielder.

Maguire, however, is not the best of the best in all areas of his game. His lack of pace is an obvious factor and something that has previously put off other clubs – Huddersfield once turned down the chance to sign him for £1m because he was deemed to be too slow.

But Maguire makes up for that deficiency with his reading of the game.

“He’s a clever, clever footballer,” former Sheffield United manager Micky Adams, who gave Maguire his professional debut at the Blades back in 2011, tells.

“He was terrific, he was very studious, and wanted to learn. He’s a student of the game and takes information on board very quickly, particularly at the training ground.”

Maguire was given his first professional start by Adams in the Championship at the age of 18, but his leadership qualities and footballing brain were evident long before then.

Former Sheffield United academy director Travis Binnion worked with Maguire from when he was 16 and remembers a player who possessed a confidence and maturity beyond his years.

“He would want to be the best in training and always wanted to do that bit more,” he said.

“He never got done for pace, he was always smart. He was always very confident and felt he belonged at any level. I am not surprised to see him go to the very top.”

It was while at Sheffield United’s academy that he faced an opponent who could soon become a team-mate – Paul Pogba.

The two players were on opposite sides for the 2011 FA Youth Cup final, Maguire playing for the Blades and Pogba for Manchester United. Although Sheffield United lost, Maguire stood out against a team that also included Jesse Lingard and Ravel Morrison.

According to reports, then Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was watching the game and personally called Maguire afterwards, telling him he had all the ingredients to make it to the very top.

Maguire had to wait a little while for a move to the Premier League, with Hull City signing him in 2014. Prior to that he spent three seasons in League One with Sheffield United. Despite that league not being famed for cultured defenders playing out from the back, Maguire never altered the playing style that ultimately caught the eye of Manchester United.

“What makes him in an £80m player is his distribution,” Michael Dawson, who played alongside Maguire at Hull City, told.

“He can bring the ball out from the back, he is comfortable in tight areas. He gets out of trouble and that is what gets him an elite player.”

Is he better than what Man Utd already have?

Manchester United have been missing a dominant force at the back for years, arguably since Nemanja Vidic departed five years ago.

The statistics suggest Maguire will certainly provide that. Last season, he won more duels and made more clearances per game than Manchester United’s current centre-back options of Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly.

Maguire’s aerial prowess also makes him stand out.

On average, he won an aerial battle once every 22 minutes for Leicester last term, better than both Lindelof and Jones (37 and 27 minutes respectively) and significantly better than Bailly (49 minutes). Smalling, though, won aerial duels slightly more regularly, once every 20 minutes last term.