While the encounters with Dortmund and Bayern Munich in January 2017 both ended in 2-1 defeats, Delaney was certainly not short of praise. Within minutes of the start of his Bremen career, he was strutting authoritatively around the pitch, enjoying more touches than any other Grün-Weiße player on his debut, ordering his teammates about and generally shaking up the established order at the Weser Stadium.
Such behaviour should have come as little surprise. Delaney had declared in his first Werder press conference after arriving from Copenhagen – where he had been made captain at 22 – that he intended to be a leader as he sailed south on a wave of confidence born of a bullish UEFA Champions League run with FCK earlier in the season.
Watch: Delaney bowling over the Bundesliga from the off!
The Dane promptly demonstrated his leadership qualities, building on his highly promising start by helping Bremen avoid the drop, notably scoring a hat-trick in a 5-2 win against Freiburg. It was a triumph that meant Werder were finally looking up the table towards the European spots and not down towards the relegation zone. Shaking up the established order indeed.
His qualities were once again showcased in the Bundesliga campaign just gone: only Augsburg midfielder Caiuby managed to win more challenges (501) than Delaney's 432, while his 79 fouls were more than any other player. But there is a cuteness to go with that combativeness, vision allied with a fine touch and accurate shot that makes Delaney – of Irish stock through his paternal great-grandfather, who emigrated to the USA – almost an old-fashioned, box-to-box central midfielder with all the tools necessary to be as effective in winning the ball as he is winning the game.
It is precisely that reason why BVB have swooped, and it can be no coincidence Delaney's arrival comes after Sebastian Kehl and Matthias Sammer – holding midfielders of distinction for the Ruhr giants – have taken on advisory roles at the club.
While Delaney's eye for goal and clever passing from deep are a boon, it is his fighting spirit, that winning mentality, that BVB so desperately need: as naturally gifted as he is, Julian Weigl's slender frame still needs filling out; Nuri Sahin is better when his team have the ball than when they are trying to win it back; Gonzalo Castro endured a forgettable last season; Sebastian Rode did not feature at all in 2017/18 due to a pelvis injury; and Mahmoud Dahoud struggled to settle after joining from Borussia Mönchengladbach. Enter Delaney.
That Lucien Favre is also now in charge at Dortmund is perhaps no coincidence: it is entirely foreseeable the left-footed Delaney takes on the Granit Xhaka role – sitting deep, dictating the play, acting as Favre's on-field lieutenant – that the Swiss tactician used his compatriot in during his tenure up the road at Gladbach.
While Delaney's pass completion rate (72 per cent) leaves room for improvement, Favre will no doubt see to that and will also appreciate that plenty of his new charge's passes were played while trying to force the issue from deep with Bremen; playing higher up – as BVB will naturally dominate possession – should lead to a fairly straightforward adaptation.
Thursday: 25 years old, 0 international goals.— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) September 5, 2017
Monday: 26 years old, 4 international goals.
What are your birthday plans this year? 🎉 pic.twitter.com/mTvePLwbDn
Above all his technical qualities, though, Delaney hates losing. The Frederiksberg native tells a story of his time at Copenhagen, regular Champions League participants, when he and his teammates were discussing whether they wanted the big boys coming to town, or a winnable group in the draw.
"Big-name opposition are great for the fans and the club, but at the end of the day we just want to win," he told t-online.
After a season with too few victories to celebrate, recruiting a natural-born winner was exactly the move Dortmund needed to make.