In this new feature, we link up with the waviest young ballers in the game and catch a vibe with them while they dive into their wardrobes, before they flex their coldest fits in their closet from the comfort of their own homes. The next generation of footballers on the come up know full well how to get fits off – which is why this feature is conducted through their own sense of self-expression.
You need to back yourself as a serious baller to go to another country and think you’ve got the levels to become a first team regular at one of the leading clubs in a league completely foreign to you. But no matter what the obstacle, Noni Madueke has always believed he was destined to make it.
Noni belongs to a generation of ballers who have made it up out of a footballing system where only the strongest and bravest survive. When ballers are harnessing that kind of confidence on the pitch, you best believe that mentality is going to translate through to their style off it, too. This new wave of footballer’s drip is different.
While Jadon Sancho and Jude Bellingham get weekly headlines for their weekly Bundesliga tear ups, Noni’s been turning up the noise on his name while he balls out in Holland with PSV. The cameras and in-game clips aren’t quite as well-broadcast as the Dortmund duos over in Bundesliga but Noni’s fearless forward play, effortless style and natural flair have certified his status as one of the hottest prospects in the game right now.
While chances to make a breakthrough in England are limited, Noni and fellow ballers his age group feel they’re talented enough to make it to first teams elsewhere in Europe at an early age. When we talk about the style and attitude of his generation, the 19-year-old is adamant his peers are unique in their approach, on and off the pitch: “This generation are setting the levels, bro. I don’t think we’ve ever known anything different than just expressing ourselves exactly how we want to.”
Despite being connected on a call hundreds of miles apart while he cools off in his spacious house out in Holland, Noni’s down-to-earth nature means the shoot is a vibe from the get go. I notice a big JBL speaker in his living room, so immediately ask what he’s been listening to. “It’s got to be (Lil) Baby, (Lil) Tjay or Gunna… yeah, let’s put on some Gunna, actually.” Within seconds, “Met Gala” is blasted out into his house, and the vibe is set for today’s shoot.
“I think the way I play football reflects how I dress. I do it with flair – just like how I play on the pitch.”
It’s not just LeBron and KD in the NBA who are bumping the YSL affiliates before game days. Many in Noni’s generation have grown up on a solid diet of those rappers spitting over Wheezy, Tay Keith and Southside beats on their pre-match playlists, with Gunna and Lil Baby’s flamboyant drip and “made it” mentality resonating with their own perspectives. “When I look at those guys (Gunna and Lil Baby), their energy… the vibe they create is something proper unique. It’s definitely influenced my own sense of style and expression.”
Noni is really living that lifestyle in today’s fits for the shoot. Not only is he dripped down in Dior, but his dog – also named Dior – is sat on his lap, stealing the show, all while we listen to Moneybagg Yo rap about the brand in the background. With the settings now set to triple threat Dior on Dior on Dior, it’s pretty clear Noni’s love for designer is much more pronounced than your average baller.
Alongside the designer attire, Noni is donning adidas’ blacked-out Tiro training range with some Yeezys on set today. When Noni talks us through today’s fits, it’s clear he’s as hyped to be working with adidas as much as the Three Stripes are to be working with him. As a young English baller making waves out in Europe, it’s only natural one of the biggest sports manufacturers in the world would want to associate with Noni.
Whether it’s dripped down in his “go-to” Amiri denim or cozied off in a clean Fear Of God ESSENTIALS tracksuit, Noni believes his style of play leans into his own sartorial self-expression. “I think the way I play football reflects how I dress,” he asserts, “I do it with flair – just like how I play on the pitch.”
“It’s the same with most wingers, I think. Just look at Steven Bergwijn – he’s such a tekky player, and his style matches up with how he plays.”
While Noni had an abundance of flair about his game moving over to Europe, former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy has helped fine-tune Noni into a goal-scoring machine as in his role as PSV coach. “He’s simplified the game for me in terms of giving me options when I have the ball. He’s made the game easy for me to play.
“In terms of my goalscoring, getting into the box, scoring off one-touch and scruffy goals. I play off the cuff…I play what comes to me naturally.”
Despite interest from United before he jetted out to Holland, another Red Devil star was hugely influential to Noni’s game. “CR7 man. That guy was a different level whenever he played. I feel that his style is something I try to emulate on the pitch for sure – he was so inspirational to me. It was always Ronaldo from the jump – the first shirt I bought as a kid was actually a United jersey with his name on the back.”
You can clearly see the effervescent attacking vibe and verve Ronaldo was bringing in his early United days being emulated by Noni at PSV. Having already bagged his first senior hat-trick as an 18-year-old back in August, the only way was up for Noni from that point – where he’s grabbed nine goals and eigh assists in all competitions for PSV in 2020/21 so far.
At the time of our call, Noni had been out injured for one of the biggest lay offs in his career so far. “The hardest part for me is staying patient but I always want more. It’s not about whether you’re old enough – I know I’m good enough.”
Yet the minor setbacks clearly don’t weigh heavily on the 19-year-old. On his first game back, Noni banged in an absolute golazo. He was then included in the England Under-21s squad for the 2021 European Under-21 Championship and despite the side having a disappointing campaign, Noni remains firmly a part of the Young Lions plans, with his status as one of the hottest prospects in Europe still intact.
Behind the scenes, Noni’s rise up the ranks has not just been down to his own self-belief. His family played a massive role in getting him to where he is today. While a lot of parents could have been dismissive when every aspiring player up and down the country tells them they’re going to be a baller, Noni’s family encouraged his rise. They took him to games, he tore it up, and Noni’s constant self-belief did the rest. He elevated to the top of his teams in every single one he played in – and that self-confidence is personified in his stylistic self-expression.
It’s also been a family affair throughout the shoot today. “I didn’t even know you were joining!”, Noni says when his dad jumps on the zoom call beforehand to check in. On the other end of the FaceTime, Noni’s Mum – who joined Noni on his move from London to a docile village in Netherlands with a larger population of livestock than people – has been tasked with holding the camera to help shoot the photos we capture today. His vibrant, infectious personality has clearly been passed down by his parents, and keeping his loved ones close is important to Noni, who he labels as “vital” to his self-progression. “You just need to make sure you keep people around you that have got your best interest at heart,” he asserts.
As we wrap up our time together today, I ask if there’s something that he’d tell someone aspiring to be the next Noni Madueke growing up. Without a pause for thought, Noni breaks into his trademark wide smile, before chuckling: “There’s this one piece of advice that sticks in my mind, from one of my old coaches. ‘If you want a nice house, nice girl, nice life…get in the box’ – that’s what I’ve been doing ever since!”
Noni Madueke wears adidas’ new TIRO training attire.