On Friday night fans of Aston Villa were preparing to lose their beloved captain Fabian Delph in an £8m move to Premier League runners up Manchester City (via Daily Mail).
Naturally, meltdown ensued. Delph not only cuts a popular figure at Villa Park, but was set to depart for a criminally low transfer fee, which the Mail attribute down to a release clause inserted in his contract when he renewed terms back in January.
However, not 24 hours later and the England international announced that he would be staying put. Having made an announcement on the club’s official website, he confirmed that he would not be leaving the club and would instead lead them into the new campaign with the armband decorating his sleeve.
“I’m aware there has been intense media speculation surrounding my future in the last 24 hours and I want to set the record straight,” he said.
“I’m not leaving. I’m staying at the football club and I can’t wait for the start of the season and captaining this great football club.”
What exactly brought on this change is hard to tell. The Birmingham Mail claim that he quite simply had a change of heart and decided not to travel up to Manchester for his medical, while the Daily Mirror insist that he grew fearful of a fan backlash following a sleepless night.
So far, Delph has not commented further, but there is likely to be truth in both stories. Upon signing an improved contract with Villa back in January, he spoke at great length about loyalty to the cause (via avfc.co.uk), and is no doubt smart enough to know that jumping ship now would earn him a bad reputation in the second city.
Villa fans, understandably, were angry. Loyalty is a word that seems to mean more to supporters than it does to players, but in a game where money comes second only to results, players cannot be blamed for wanting to further their short careers as much as they can.
However, in this instance, staying at Villa is the right move for Delph. He is now an England regular with a major tournament on the horizon. Joining City, after seeing what has happened to the likes of Adam Johnson, Jack Rodwell and current club mate Scott Sinclair, could only act as a deterrent. At City, Delph would have been a political signing and nothing else.
Having cost £6m (via The Guardian), he would have joined City for just £2m more. This would have been catastrophic for Villa, not only because he is a vital part of their squad, but because when you consider that Fulham paid Leeds £11m for Ross McCormack in the Championship last summer (via the BBC), the West Midlands side would could have well and truly felt ripped off.
Tim Sherwood is currently in the process of rebuilding Villa, and to do that properly he’ll need his best players. He has already replaced Tom Cleverley with Lille’s Idrissa Gueye (via Daily Mail) and there will no doubt be a few more comings and goings before the season kicks off on August 8.
The future of Christian Benteke is still blighted with question marks, but Delph’s decision to stay put will do wonders for morale both in the squad and in the stands, and it may even tempt the Belgian inter national to stick around for one more year with his own place in his respective national set up still up for grabs.