There were many twists and turns and seemingly a sudden change of heart, but after six years at Aston Villa, tenacious midfielder Fabian Delph has made the step up to sign for Manchester City in an £8m deal. The big question now is whether he can establish himself as a regular in the side rather than end up constantly warming the bench like some of City’s other new recruits in recent seasons.
Having now become a key part of the England setup, the former Leeds United youngster is definitely in need of a new challenge after spending much the last four seasons at Villa Park battling the prospect of relegation to the Championship despite a series of outstanding performances, earning rare adulation from supporters at a time where their club have experienced difficulty on the pitch.
He had his many critics at Villa, but former boss Paul Lambert must take a large amount of the credit for helping Delph reach the levels he is achieving now, and the player surely has rarely played better than in the 2-1 FA Cup semi-final victory over Liverpool, where his relentless energy and quality – as well as a nice finish for the winning goal – was the difference between the two sides.
But will he be given the opportunity to produce that kind of showing at Man City? His presence in the midfield would certainly offer the back four more protection, as Yaya Toure in particular does not enjoy tracking back. That said, the Ivorian is likely to be one of the first names on the team sheet for most matches, so it appears Delph will be in a three-way battle with Fernando and Fernandinho for the right to play alongside him.
Examining the competition, Fernandinho is highly regarded by manager Manuel Pellegrini. However, last term he was unable to replicate the fine form he showed in his first season in the Premier League and so will feel he has something to prove. A couple of goals against West Bromwich Albion aside, Fernando hardly set the word alight upon arriving from FC Porto in a big-money move.
So Delph will fancy his chances of making a breakthrough at the Etihad Stadium, but some signings have not got their chance under Pellegrini. The most notable example is Scott Sinclair, who has eventually moved in the opposite direction to Delph after a thoroughly miserable two years after joining with an increasingly glowing reputation from Swansea City.
Injuries played a part, but Jack Rodwell also fell victim of the sheer weight of numbers and the depth of quality in the squad, with appearances few and far between before he moved on to Sunderland last summer. All of that after he was hailed as one of English football’s most promising talents.
In light of those moves that did not work out, there is no reason why Delph cannot be a great success at City. At 25, he is continuing to progress as he approaches the peak of his career, while his determined style of play may just be the kind of thing his new club need after failing to retain their title last season and indeed failing to win a trophy. When he takes to the field for the first time in a competitive match, he must seize his chance and prove just that.
Get upto £200 in free matched bets with bet365 - Click here to find out more