The will-he won’t-he saga that was the transfer of Aston Villa captain Fabian Delph culminated Friday with the player moving up the M6 to the blue half of Manchester. Less than a week after pledging his allegiance to Villa in a statement on the club website that featured an image of him pointing to the captain’s armband on his left shoulder, Delph changed his mind and decided to further his career (and pad his bank account) at Manchester City.
Time will tell whether or not Delph made the right choice. When Manchester City come calling at Villa Park on November 7, you can be sure the home faithful will let him know exactly how they feel about him. He certainly won’t be hearing anything fit to be published on this website.
The much larger issue, though, is where the sale of Delph and the potential loss of Christian Benteke will leave Aston Villa this season and beyond. The club will hardly benefit financially by losing Delph – his release clause, just £8 million, meant Manchester City got him for a steal. A 25-year-old England international with pace, a gifted left foot, and the ability to dictate tempo and pick out any kind of pass arguably should have netted Villa a much larger profit.
The same would be true if Christian Benteke moves to Liverpool – the Belgian’s £32.5 million release clause would be a bargain for a player who scored 44 goals in 82 league games for a club with very little attacking or creative talent to supply him. If the toughest thing to do in soccer is put the ball in the back of the net, Benteke has shown he can do it, and with both feet and his head.
By comparison, Raheem Sterling, a largely unproven player at the highest level for both club and country, albeit one with supreme potential and unrivaled pace that can terrorize any defense, was sold for nearly £50 million.
More important than the financial implications of these moves for the average supporter is what these departures will actually mean for Villa on the field.
While I do believe Delph is worth more than 8 million pounds, the fact is he hasn’t shown much of an eye for goal to this point in his career. He scored just 8 times in 128 appearances for Aston Villa, although one of those was the winning tally in last season’s FA Cup semifinal against Liverpool. And too often, he settles for recycling possession horizontally or backwards rather than driving up the pitch. Delph hardly appeared to show any particular leadership qualities that merited his being handed the captain’s armband, certainly not over a more qualified figure like Ron Vlaar. Rather, I believe Delph was given that honor largely as an incentive to stay at the club.