The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at Manchester City youngster Liam Delap’s transfer dilemma, with Real Madrid reportedly on the prowl.
As we head towards the final stretch of the season, major European heavyweights have already started their preparation for the upcoming summer transfer window.
Real Madrid are among the clubs who are anticipating a major squad overhaul, with the Spanish giants likely to spend big on quality players in an attempt to revamp the squad. However, a recent report from Daily Star suggests that Los Blancos are also eyeing players for the future by keeping tabs on Liam Delap.
Indeed, the Manchester City youngster has emerged as a transfer target for Zidane’s men after starring in the Elite Development League for the Citizens this season. He has also featured in three competitive matches and is tipped to earn a promotion to the senior side in the summer.
Real Madrid, though, are hoping to land the young forward, whose contract at Etihad Stadium expires in 2023. Their scouts are closely monitoring the progress of Delap, meaning the 18-year-old could be dealt with a choice to make this summer.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at Liam Delap and analyse his best options going forward as well as the similarities with former Man City youth prodigies in Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden that lie in his path.
The latest entry to England’s “abroad gang”?
A potential Real Madrid move for Liam Delap this summer could see him become the latest English talent to seek a transfer away from the Premier League in search of a breakthrough in European football.
While the trend was kickstarted by Jadon Sancho when he joined Borussia Dortmund in 2017, it has become a widespread phenomenon in recent years with players like Jude Bellingham (Dortmund), Ademola Lookman (Leipzig), Ryan Sessegnon (Hoffenheim) among many others leaving England either on loan or on a permanent deal.
Most of them have found a lot of success, which has led to even more youngsters flocking to other leagues for more game-time. The case for Delap is an interesting one as Real Madrid are traditionally known for their reliance on star players rather than taking the burden of nurturing raw talents.
At the same time, though, it is fair to point that Los Blancos are currently going through a transition as they brace themselves for a future without Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Isco, Karim Benzema and even Toni Kroos.
While the Spanish giants can always go big in the transfer market, the ongoing financial caused by the pandemic might finally force them to rely on younger players next season, much like their arch-rivals FC Barcelona.
Liam Delap: The next Phil Foden?
In many ways, Liam Delap’s development at Manchester City is very similar to Jadon Sancho rather than Phil Foden as both the players were poached from a different youth academy.
Unlike the Dortmund superstar, and much like Foden, the 18-year-old is yet to showcase any frustrations over his lack of game-time. It is partly due to the fact that Pep Guardiola has taken great care in nurturing the youngster, notably involving him in training with the first-team for the most part of the campaign.
The player himself does deserve credit for remaining patient and as Manchester City brace themselves for changes in their squad, including the recent confirmation of Sergio Aguero’s departure, he could potentially enjoy more prominence in the first-team.
Although the Citizens are pretty much in contention to sign a new forward in the summer, with Erling Haaland among the targets, they currently only have Gabriel Jesus as an out and out number nine.
The Brazilian hasn’t had the desired impact either despite becoming an integral part of the Manchester City attack. His lack of productivity, in particular, will always remain a concern for Guardiola and that is where Delap could turn out to be an interesting option.
The 18-year-old isn’t the quickest of players nor does he have the positioning sense of Aguero. But he does offer a strong presence in the final third and is usually very alert, which arguably makes him a better fit to the Premier League when compared to the pace and technique-oriented Gabriel.
It is also fair to point out that at the age of 18, Delap has a lot of room for development and under the tutelage of one of the best managers in world football, the Englishman is bound to improve – potentially becoming the next Phil Foden for Manchester City over the coming years.
The Real Madrid Alternative
Manchester City are bracing themselves for an attempt by Real Madrid to sign rising star Liam Delap this summer. The 18-year old has scored 20 goals and made 4 assists in 15 games in the PL 2 this season. (Source: Daily Star) pic.twitter.com/tLb3ETriwp
— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) March 30, 2021
While prolonging his stay at the Etihad can be a rather tempting proposition for Liam Delap, a move to Real Madrid is always an option for the young striker, should he opt for the more unconventional route and continue his progress away from England.
Englishmen certainly have had mixed success in Spain often fluctuating between the heights of David Beckham to the lows of Jonathan Woodgate. The current era of Los Blancos, however, especially in the post-Ronaldo period, have embraced the influx and development of young players, with the likes of Fede Valverde, Marco Asensio and Vinicius Jr. breaking through the ranks.
Things could be a bit tricky for Delap though as the 18-year-old doesn’t have much experience at the highest level of football. In addition, he will have to compete with another young attacking prodigy in Luka Jovic, who is set to return from his loan spell at Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer.
And perhaps most importantly, the youngster will largely operate behind Karim Benzema in the pecking order. It could be a good thing for Delap, though, as the scoring burden will largely be on the veteran Frenchman unless Real Madrid opt to sign a new forward. Much like Manchester City, they also have Haaland on the radars.
Nevertheless, Benzema’s presence should aid someone like Delap, who, unlike Jovic, may not have to deal with the added pressure and expectations of a hefty price tag on his head. In addition, the Englishman will be offered world-class creative support and seasoned veterans like Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
La Liga itself is a bit more forgiving league for young players to develop, compared to the physically astute and fast-paced nature of the Premier League that makes it almost impossible for inexperienced players to find their footing immediately.
Who will be Delap’s “Dortmund”?
Given Jadon Sancho’s rapid rise to prominence, Borussia Dortmund is a fair metaphor as far as Delap’s future is concerned, with the youngster seemingly torn between two options – a prolonged stay at Manchester City or a fabled move to Real Madrid.
His current team certainly offers a bit more stability as well as the opportunity to not only work with Guardiola but also having an outside chance of replacing the departing Aguero next season, even though the Citizens are more than likely to invest in a centre-forward.
As for Real Madrid, they could offer more from a sporting perspective, as the youngster will likely be considered as a long-term investment to replace the ageing Benzema.
That said, Delap will have to compete with the Frenchman and perhaps even Luka Jovic in the short-run. Much like Man City, Los Merengues are also expected to splash the cash on a new centre-forward as well.
It makes for a difficult choice for Delap, who could ideally prefer a loan move to a less star-studded outfit like Sevilla, RB Leipzig or Leeds United next season. They can offer him more game-time, with the first two, in particular, also giving him the opportunity to compete in the UEFA Champions League.
Realistically, however, it appears Delap is set for a stay at Manchester City. He will look to make his breakthrough like Phil Foden, but just like his compatriot, he may have to remain patient and perhaps even wait out a few years before becoming a key asset for the Premier League giants.