October 24, 2017

The Rise (and Rise!) of Thomas Delaney

Werder Bremen midfielder Thomas Delaney earned his side their first point of the season when he jinked his way into the box and blasted a volley past Jiri Pavlenka on Sunday. It was his fifth goal in three games for club and country and it highlighted his fantastic potential. Delaney is constantly improving and it will not be long before Europe’s biggest clubs come knocking if he maintains this upward curve. But for now, Bremen fans can be thankful that they have such a potent match winner in their ranks as they seek to climb the table.

With a name like that, you could be forgiven for thinking Delaney was Irish, but in fact he represents Denmark on the international stage and already has 19 caps to his name. He has Irish ancestry, but his family moved to New York many moons ago, before one branch headed back over the Atlantic and settled in Copenhagen, where Delaney was born and raised. He could have elected to play for the USA, but chose instead to represent the country of his birth and he has become a key pillar in the Danish midfield.

On September 1, Delaney  nodded in the opener in a 4-0 victory over group leaders Poland that caused all of Europe to sit up and take notice. Poland were the heavy favourites, but Denmark outclassed them in every department and Delaney set the tone with his insightful passing. The Danes then travelled to Armenia and Delaney, who had just celebrated his 26th birthday, was once again the difference as he banged in a brilliant hat-trick to lead his team to a 4-1 win. Denmark were trailing 1-0 when Delaney timed his run perfectly from midfield to head in a cross and level the scores. Cristian Eriksen gave them the lead with a spectacular free kick, but Delaney went one better by picking up the ball 30 yards from goal, setting himself and driving into the bottom corner from an outrageous distance. He then sealed the win by rising highest in the box once more and completing his hat-trick with another bullet header.

Denmark have now overtaken Montenegro and are odds-on to finish in the top two in their group. They have a great chance of qualifying for the World Cup next summer and that could be the ideal platform for Delaney to prove his worth. They are 200/1 outsiders in the Sun Bets football betting lines and they are not expected to trouble the latter stages of the tournament, but it would only take a few strong performances in the group stage for a big club to launch a bid.

His rise to prominence has already been remarkable this year. Delaney spent nine years at FC Copenhagen, where he won four league titles and three league cups. He could have seen out a comfortable career at his hometown club, but he displayed ambition by agreeing to a €1.7 million move to Werder Bremen in January 2017.

He has been a revelation in the Bundesliga and has impressed so much that he has been handed the captain’s armband while Zlatko Junozovic is out injured. That is testament to his influence and maturity, while his technical qualities are plain for all to see. He has a cracking left foot and is great in the air, which makes him a potent weapon for set pieces at both ends of the pitch. When he joined halfway through last season, Bremen were in a relegation dogfight. But Delaney’s arrival sparked a rejuvenation that saw the club turn their campaign around and climb all the way up to eighth in the table, leaving them just four points behind fifth placed Koln.

They have got off to a poor start to the 2017/18 campaign, but when you look at the fixture list that is entirely understandable. Their opening game saw them travel to Hoffenheim, who finished fourth last season and are on a remarkable journey, and they lost 1-0. Next up was a match against the mighty Bayern Munich, and there is no shame in losing 2-0 to them. But they got up and running with a 1-1 draw against Hertha Berlin last time out thanks to Delaney’s powerful strike, and now they can mount a charge up the table.

Bremen will do well to keep hold of Delaney in the long-term as they have already rebuffed an €8.5 million bid from Everton and an €12 million offer from Brighton for the midfielder. That would be a huge return on their €1.7 million outlay, but they know his value will soar if he continues to mine this rich vein of form. For Delaney right now, the only way is up, and Bundesliga giants could soon join their Premier League counterparts in bidding for him.

Martin Green is an experienced football writer and has covered the Bundesliga for many years.

 

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