Let’s be honest – it’s immensely difficult to break into the first team and establish yourself as an important, young up and comer in the senior setup at Manchester City, no matter how much money they’ve spent on developing their academy.
Phil Foden is the gleaming exception and the beacon of hope for talented players still in the academy ranks, but even he found it supremely challenging to break the mould and prove his worth.
For a striker, the pressure to impress is even harder. Not for Liam Delap though, who bagged a peach of a strike just 18 minutes into his debut for the Citizens and made sure he stole the headlines as Pep Guardiola’s side edged past Bournemouth to make the fourth round of the Carabao Cup.
This won’t be the last time we hear of Delap, so here’s everything you need to know about the teenager following his electric debut…
Yes, really. And no, he wasn’t hurled out of the hospital in vintage Rory Delap, long-throw fashion. We don’t think.
Liam ‘Rory’ Delap was born 8th February 2003, while his father was plying his trade for Southampton. While we all remember his father for his time at Stoke in the late 2000s, where he became a bit of a cult hero for his ridiculously long throw-ins, Liam operates in a different mould, playing as a skilful and quick striker.
Rory’s dogged and resilient play style has clearly rubbed off on his son to some extent, as he looked fearless in his competitive debut for a Pep Guardiola team.
Despite his dad’s unrivalled success with the ball in his hands on the touchline, Liam Delap isn’t one for a throw-in. At all.
His father Rory revealed in an interview earlier this year that Delap Jr. hasn’t taken throw-ins since he was around 10 years old, following abuse from a spectator: “One of the parents shouted that he was ruining the game when he took a throw and he hasn’t taken one since. I don’t think that will be part of his game”.
With his strength and size, it’s more likely that we’ll see Delap Jr. on the end of a big throw. One attempted long throw just for the sake of nostalgia can’t hurt, though, can it?
Despite being only 17, Delap isn’t actually a product of the Manchester City academy as such. He signed for the Citizens in 2019 after spending the best part of 10 years in the ranks at Derby County.
After an impressive decade on the books at Derby where Delap won the Under-18 English Youth League in 2018/19, he earned a move up north to City in 2019.
Despite some early injury struggles – which the teenager has credited to helping him develop his pace and power – Delap has excelled in the sky blue shirt. He’s bagged eight goals and six assists from 13 appearances in the Under-18’s set up, and another three goals and two assists from just four games with the Under-23s.
In an interview with the Manchester Evening News, Delap expressed his admiration for Ronaldo – formerly of Manchester United – and his impressive style of play: “I’ve always looked up to Cristiano Ronaldo. Just the way he plays, the pace and the power. For me, he’s the best in the world so aspiring to someone who is the best in the world, your dreams just have to be high.”
Not exactly the name City fans wanted to hear…
Standing at 1.86 metres tall at just 17 makes Delap a fearsome presence, and difficult to play against. He’s strong and powerful against the opposition, but he also has an incredible finishing range for his age and possesses frightening pace. You can see why he finds inspiration from the Portuguese Ballon d’Or winner.
It’s an entirely different kind of striker City are used to seeing lead the line for them. Sergio Aguero has been the go-to man in the past decade, excelling with his low centre of gravity and ability to take on defenders, finish from virtually any angle and float around the final third.
With Aguero expected to be out injured for another two months, however, Delap now has his chance to break the mould at City and force Guardiola to sculpt the attacking system around himself. He explained how his unique play style could give him an advantage at City: “In the past you look at City’s strikers and they’re small and technical but I think I’m just a different player.
“It works well for me because I am different and I can show myself even more. It’s good”.
Rory Delap was an established international for the Republic of Ireland, and while Liam might be tempted down the line to follow in his father’s footsteps, he hasn’t represented them yet.
Delap Jr. has represented England at various youth levels. He has six goals in nine games for England at Under-16 level and has most recently represented at Under-17 level, scoring two in two games. With his successful senior club debut and the chance to build from that in the coming weeks, following Guardiola confirming that he was now training with the first team, it’s unlikely that he’ll be hanging around at youth level much longer.
England Under-18s and 21s seems like the most natural destination for Delap, but with a few more games under his belt for City’s first team, there’s no reason why Gareth Southgate wouldn’t want to keep tabs on the exciting teenager.