Brendan Rodgers insists Leicester City star James Maddison is not the high-living party boy he is portrayed as, and predicts he will become one of the best in his position.
The 23-year-old was pictured drinking champagne and partying until the hours in Dubai as Leicester players had a week off during the Premier League’s winter break.
It came after Maddison was photographed in a casino on the eve of England’s Euro 2020 qualifying defeat to the Czech Republic in October, having pulled out of the Three Lions squad through illness.
But Leicester boss Rodgers says there is no problem with Maddison’s lifestyle, insisting he is a “top” professional driven by a desire for continual improvement.
Rodgers said: “I love his energy, I love his appetite to be better. Some people are trying to portray him as something that he’s not.
“Thankfully, I know the reality. He’s a top-class young professional who focuses on his game and wants to be better.”
Attacking midfielder Maddison has scored six Premier League goals to help Leicester to third place in the table, and has also contributed three assists in the competition.
And Rodgers said: “We’ve spoken about training mentality and to arrive at that very top level, and how you sustain that, you see it in his performances and you see it in his numbers.
“I can only judge him on my time here, nearly a year now, he’s been absolutely brilliant for me. And outside of the pitch, he’s been an absolute joy.”
Former Liverpool and Celtic manager Rodgers added: “He’s a charming young man – really respectful and he really respects what he has here at Leicester.
“He’s definitely on the path to being one of the top players – you can see that. He’s just a pleasure to work with.”
Asked about Maddison’s partying in Dubai, where four bottles of £6,750 Champagne were ordered to the player’s VIP area, Rodgers said he didn’t feel it necessary to have a word with the player.
“No, because you do that through life,” said the manager. “What people’s narrative is – a lot of the time he can’t control that because he could be doing something else and someone else would comment.
“People want to fit a narrative around him so I don’t worry so much about that perception side. I know the reality of what he is and what he gives.
“He creates goals, he scores goals and he’s a real threat for us at set-pieces with world-class deliveries. He’s certainly on the path but there’s still a lot of work to do.”
Rodgers added: “I was interested to see how he was here. I saw a bit of him at Norwich. But I’ve been taken aback by his quality working with him day-to-day here – and his mentality.
“He’s a great boy. If you are a young seven or eight-year-old boy watching the game you want to be James Maddison.
“You want to take free kicks like James Maddison. You want to have that way and that personality to play. You need that. You also need education and he’s brilliant. He’s his own man.
“This is a kid who people are trying to put a narrative on but I know the reality. He’s a great professional and I’m happy with that.
“If it’s not that way, he will be told. But he’s a joy to work with.”