The January transfer window is typically known for panic buys, but Werder Bremen midfielder Thomas Delaney is an exception to the rule.
When the 14-time Denmark international officially made the switch from Copenhagen at the turn of the year - a deal struck five months earlier - Bremen were perched a precarious three points above the bottom three. Now, the Green-Whites are dreaming of a place in next season's UEFA Europa League.
"You can go two directions when you sign for a new club," Delaney said in a recent interview with Deutsche Welle Sport. "You can go for the money or you go to improve and that's why I'm here. I didn’t come here to play relegation every year either. I came here to make an impact, to be an important player."
Mission accomplished. After a humbling introduction to life in the Bundesliga comprising four successive defeats, Delaney belatedly hit the winning trail in an eventful trip to Mainz on Matchday 21. The 25-year-old suffered a facial fracture for his troubles, but grabbed the decisive second goal to kick-start Werder's revival.
Watch: Delaney's stunning breakthrough Bundesliga goal
Emboldened by Delaney's take-one-for-the-team heroics, Bremen won their next two and continued their fine run of form upon his return by taking a point off Bayer Leverkusen and putting three past RB Leipzig without reply. A 5-2 victory in Freiburg followed, with Delaney notching a first career hat-trick and registering an assist to boot.
Watch: Highlights of Delaney's Matchday 26 hat-trick
Delaney was instrumental in further wins over Europa League contenders Schalke and Hertha Berlin - either side of a three-game injury lay-off - before Bremen's remarkable 11-match unbeaten run was brought to an end in a barnstorming 4-3 defeat away to top-six rivals Cologne on Matchday 32.
Culpable for two of Cologne's four goals and winning only 47 per cent of his attempted challenges, Delaney was uncharacteristically off-key at the RheinEnergie STADION. His 54th-minute withdrawal in favour of Serge Gnabry came as little surprise, but was by no means a stamp of reproval.
"He was on a yellow card and there was a danger of him being sent off if he put one more foot wrong in the tackle – that's why we made the substitution," explained Bremen head coach Alexander Nouri. "After his spell on the sidelines with injury, what Thomas needs to do now is rediscover his rhythm."
A four-time Danish Superliga champion and Bremen's resident resuscitator, Delaney has earned his mentor's support. He is on the cusp of driving Bremen back into Europe for the first time in seven years and, with club captain Clemens Fritz standing down at the end of the campaign, has to be considered a prime candidate to one day become the new voice of the Werder dressing room.
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