Tournament life suits Harry Maguire’s personality.

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By Creative Media News

This year, Harry Maguire had just finished a training session when he got an email from an unknown sender via his agent. The email informed him that three explosives had been placed at his Wilmslow home and that he had 72 hours to vacate the stadium before they exploded.

Naturally, the police were summoned right away. A sniffer dog was sent to investigate Maguire’s home and grounds thoroughly, but no explosives were discovered. Maguire hurried from Carrington to be with his family and spent a few days living with a teammate while his fiancee and kids were relocated to a safe house. No one was detained.

Tournament life suits harry maguire's personality.
Tournament life suits harry maguire's personality.

Of course, there is a lot to be said about the increasingly ominous tone of online conversation, the connection between football and celebrity, and possibly even the media’s role in identifying heroes and villains. But my focus is more on how Maguire might change as a result of that experience.

How would you react if the fleeting but horrifying potential existed that your football career—the very foundation upon which you have built your life, livelihood, identity, and joy—might ultimately result in the murder of your whole family? How does that affect you? How does it change the way you feel about football?

In many ways, the bomb threat was arguably the logical outgrowth of what we would refer to as English football’s Maguire-industrial complex: an enterprise that blossomed around his spectacular World Cup performances before juddering violently in the other direction.

Harry maguire
Tournament life suits harry maguire's personality.

He would later become the face and flailing limbs of England’s decline, the emblem of a United squad striving to find their identity under four different managers, just as Maguire had become the forehead and face of a new, humbler, and more relatable England side.

Maguire: why? Although he was surrounded by other players who were struggling, nobody, as far as we are aware, ever sent Paul Pogba a bomb threat or threatened to harm John Stones’ family.

Maguire may have been a target because of the same traits that briefly elevated him to the status of a cult hero, including his openness to the world, his feigned eagerness, and his propensity to keep trying new things and volunteer for post-game interviews. If you’re angry enough to punch, you’ll likely just swing at the first face you come across.

The purpose of this is not to launch an ardent defense of Maguire’s football skills, a subject about which you almost surely already have an opinion. But there is a mystery at play here.

After making just one league start in the previous three months, Maguire is currently United’s fourth-choice center-back under Erik ten Hag. He was named player of the tournament at Euro 2020, and it is expected that he will start England’s next game against Wales on Tuesday night. What could account for the discrepancy? A quick look at Maguire’s statistics for club and nation provides some insight.

In his maybe final season of relative anonymity at Leicester City in 2017–18, he completed 51 successful dribbles and made 115 forward passes (defined as moving the ball forward at least 10 yards).

This was the prototypical Maguire: a ball-playing entrepreneur, a platform for offense, and a pure-hearted defender. Those figures have gradually decreased. At United, he has made four forward passes so far this season. Most tellingly, he hasn’t finished a dribble yet.

The logical conclusion that follows might be that Maguire has evolved into a player who is more constrained and less ambitious with time. However, it appears that the exact opposite procedure took place in England colors.

With the proviso that he has only participated in two games here, you can say that if you take his three tournaments, his dribbling and progressive passes have improved from 2018 to 2022.

He may have had the most skill in the game against the USA with an incredible slalom close to the left byline that came dangerously close to being a shot on goal.

So what is going on here? Let’s imagine you got a threat via anonymous email to blow up your family. In the near term, you strengthen your home security measures, cling to your loved ones, and focus inward.

Perhaps you even start to act a little colder, less approachable, and more suspicious. However, in the end, this is not who you are. This is not the same person that paid to attend Euro 2016 and then joined their team a year later.

So there’s no way you might eventually start to miss that less complicated way of life, is there? Before, you were an £85 million defender who was criticized and threatened every weekend.

A time when if you made a mistake, you might learn something from it rather than get threatened with death. When you still had room to develop and get better, when you were figuring out the dimensions and contours of your game.

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