Martin O'Neill once again demonstrated his faith in young English talent when he met Leeds United's £5.5m asking price to bring teenager Fabian Delph to Aston Villa yesterday.
Despite the late intervention of Manchester City in the bidding for Delph, it was Villa who have met the asking price for the 19-year-old who was voted the player of the year at Leeds by his team-mates last season. Delph was considered by many of the Premier League's top clubs, with City, Everton and Spurs, another investor in young talent, also weighing up a bid.
Leeds intimated that other clubs had tried to hijack the deal after Villa agreed a price. A spokesman said: "Leeds United wishes to place on record our appreciation for the honourable manner in which Aston Villa have conducted their interest in the player. The club has resisted approaches from other Premier League clubs since agreeing terms with Aston Villa. Having given Villa our commitment to transfer the player (subject to a medical), we had no intention of going back."
Delph, who was originally a junior player at Bradford City, made his debut for Leeds at the age of 17. He is an attacking midfielder who has also played on the left side. As the League One club's most saleable asset, Leeds have been adamant that they would get the asking price for a player who, for all his promise, at £5.5m is still something of a gamble for a Premier League club.
O'Neill has now committed around £20m on Stewart Downing and Delph this summer but still has one of the smallest squads in the Premier League. He has lost Gareth Barry to Manchester City and it remains to be seen whether Stilian Petrov will require an operation on his dislocated shoulder. Further targets include Jermaine Jenas, Sylvain Distin and Stephen Warnock.