Manchester City striker Liam Delap enjoyed a memorable 2020/21 campaign.
The 19-year-old netted 30 goals that season, 24 of which came in Premier League 2 and he even scored on his senior debut in the Carabao Cup. He was gearing up for a push into Pep Guardiola’s squad until injury struck.
Delap missed the start of the season due to an ankle injury before suffering another setback after returning in September. He featured for half of his side’s EFL Trophy tie with Rotherham in October before the medical team decided to change tack.
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They decided it would be best to allow time for his injury to heal properly to prevent long-lasting damage. In the end, he didn’t return until February.
The season wasn’t lost, though. He managed cameos in the 4-0 win over Norwich and the 5-0 away win against Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League – his debut in the competition. Delap still managed to net eight goals in 10 Premier League 2 matches, including seven in his last five, as the Under-23s lifted the title. His talent is clear to see.
But the arrival of Julian Alvarez from River Plate this summer means he has a decision to make. The January signing has scored 14 goals in 17 games this season, six of which came in a single game.
Erling Haaland will undoubtedly be City’s first-choice striker next season which means despite Alvarez’s goal haul, he will have to play backup alongside Gabriel Jesus if both remain at the Etihad. It’s clear Delap will be offered restricted game time in the senior squad. It means he has a decision to make: stay on in the academy and fight for a senior spot or secure a move elsewhere be it permanent or temporary.
At such a tender age, it may be remiss to leave the Etihad entirely. But a lack of consistent football may see him fall behind his peers.
He’s watched on as Cole Palmer enjoyed first-team minutes during the first half of the season and Taylor Harwood-Bellis gained Championship experience at Stoke. The good news is that he would have plenty of suitors for a loan switch. The Potters, a club where father Rory is regarded as a hero – have always attained an interest.
Meanwhile, Burnley could be a viable option, especially if Vincent Kompany lands the manager’s role. Both are examples of positive moves that would see him gain more first-team minutes.
In order to progress, Delap needs more than the 25 minutes he was offered this campaign. Pre-season will be an important crossroads for the player, who is packed full of talent and deserves a shot as a first-team regular at a well-regarded club. Only he can decide which avenue to go down.
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