On Saturday, a report emerged from The Independent.ie outlining that the FAI had reached out to Leicester City midfielder James Maddison about a potential switch to play for Ireland.
The Association had reportedly received some encouragement about a potential switch for Maddison who qualifies to play for the Boys in Green through a grandparent.
Irish manager Mick McCarthy is understood to be on board with trying to recruit the 22-year-old who, if overlooked by Gareth Southgate for the next set of qualifiers, could be interested in switching allegiances.
Maddison is a tremendous talent and there’s no doubt that the FAI’s interest in him is legitimate; the signs may even be encouraging.
But let’s not get it twisted.
James Maddison will never play for the Republic of Ireland.
For all intents and purposes, it’s impossible to know how Maddison actually feels. He qualifies to play for Ireland through a grandparent, whom he could be very close to.
He’s never represented the country of his potential switch at youth level, but neither did Declan Rice, and it’s safe to say that he feels a little more English than he does Irish when he wears the Three Lions on his chest.
Maybe Maddison has always felt Irish and the call to action never came? There were reports of FAI scouts watching him during his time at Norwich and Coventry before that, but regardless, nothing ever materialised.
The above factors are not impossible although they are highly unlikely.
At surface level, this feels like a move from Maddison and his representatives to put pressure on Gareth Southgate and England to call him up and cap him as soon as possible.
The 22-year-old was involved in England’s UEFA Nations League games against Spain and Croatia but never made it off the bench.
Since then, he’s failed to make Southgate’s squad, despite his impressive debut season in the Premier League which saw him score seven goals and assist just as many, while also creating a whopping 100 chances.
Maddison may feel hard done by not to have been involved and could want to give the England boss a wake-up call – what better than by threatening a move to Ireland?
It’s important to remember than England do indeed have a wealth of talent in Maddison’s position, the likes of Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden both have world-class potential, but the Leicester City man is also still very young in the game.
He’s just 22 and is only in his second season in the top flight. Maddison has had a very promising start to this campaign but if for some reason, he doesn’t make the next international squad, he shouldn’t panic.
If Maddison continues to impress in the Premier League his time for his country will come. Making a switch to Ireland would certainly be rash.
From an Irish point of view, it would be naive to say that Maddison wouldn’t improve a side desperate for someone to aid their goalscoring woes.
The attacking midfielder’s speciality is chance creation. He created 13 ‘big chances’ for his teammates last season according to the Premier League’s official website – the sixth highest in the league.
Compare that to the Irish midfielders and Robbie Brady leads the way with just two big chances created, Jeff Hendrick created only one.
Despite this though, McCarthy shouldn’t chase Maddison and try to bend his arm to play for the Boys in Green, especially if the only reason he’s considering switching is because his face doesn’t fit in the current English setup – which may not even be the case.
The Irish boss would be better promoting a player like Jack Byrne, who, with all due respect, may be playing at a lower level than Maddison, but plays a similar style and crucially has the desire to represent McCarthy’s men.
Both players are technically sound, thrive on creating chances for their teammates and do their best work playing in the number 10 role off the striker.
McCarthy may not have played with a natural number 10 in his previous four games but if Maddison was to make the miraculous switch, then you’d imagine he will find a spot for him in the starting XI.
Why not do that for Jack Byrne? Or Alan Browne? Or Callum O’Dowda?
There’s also the clear and obvious obstacle of eligibility which has reared its ugly head in Ireland’s attempts to get both Dan Crowley and Ryan Johansson to switch.
The Bayern Munich midfielder, especially, has run into trouble due to not having an Irish passport before he represented Luxembourg at competitive underage level and despite not being fully privy to the intricacies of Johansson’s family tree, it doesn’t look too promising.
Ireland could see a similar situation with Maddison with the report in the Irish Independent stating that the process of completing his switch could be particularly difficult.
If the FAI somehow persuade the 22-year-old to switch and fall at the final hurdle, then it won’t be a good look for an organisation who could do without any more tarnishing of their image.
Maddison will have a fantastic career at the highest level and it’s difficult not to see him getting a big move should he keep his form up for Leicester City.
He may also have a long and illustrious career on the international scene but it’s hard to comprehend that being in the green of Ireland as opposed to the white of England.
Who knows? He may feel more Irish than any of us think, but at the end of the day, this feels like a case of false hope rather than one of genuine promise.