“I wasn’t told to leave,” Fabian Delph said. “I could have stayed there.”
Everton’s newest recruit is reflecting on the end of a four-year stint at Manchester City. He may not have started a league game in 2019, but it was an amicable ending for a breakout star of the 2017-18 season.
He went in pursuit of first-team football, but with Pep Guardiola’s best wishes. “I think the players are probably sad I have left,” he said.
He could have gone two years ago. Stoke City came courting. Delph was resolute, remained and reinvented himself as a full-back in a team who posted 100 points.
“When I am retired, I will probably look back at some moments,” he added. “Definitely the ‘Centurions’ season; at the start of that season, I was probably on my way out.
"I felt I had not done enough and wanted to give it one more shot. I gave it absolutely everything. Rightly so, a lot of people wrote me off playing in the left-back slot.”
A self-deprecating Delph admitted: “I am not the best left-back in the world.” He was, though, the man who occupied that position in the team with the highest points total in English top-flight history. He played a smaller part in 2018-19’s treble, but still he contributed off the pitch.
“I played quite a key role within that squad,” he said. “Ever since I was 18 years old at Leeds United I think I have been quite vocal.”
A wider audience became aware of his bluntness after an impassioned speech following April 2018’s Manchester derby defeat was broadcast in the City documentary All Or Nothing.
“I am quite a private person,” Delph explained. “I have not watched it back. I don’t like watching myself effing and blinding. I have got young kids that are probably going to end up seeing that.”
Yet it was an insight to his character. Leadership, he thinks, “has always been in there, it’s not something you can turn on and off. Even last season when I was not involved, I was like that in the dressing room.”
For Everton, who have lost their long-serving club captain Phil Jagielka, that is a boon. “You don’t need to be the best player in the team to have an effect if you have got leadership qualities,” Delph said.
The concern for Evertonians is that their £8.5 million (Dh38.8m) acquisition will be a different kind of replacement.
With Lucas Digne Everton’s reigning player of the year, there is no vacancy at left-back.
With Idrissa Gueye a target for Paris Saint-Germain, there may be hole in the heart of midfield.
It is Delph’s more natural role but he said: “He is a fantastic player and I would love to play with him so hopefully he stays.”
Gueye is a combative force and the competitor in Delph has enjoyed his previous trips to Goodison Park.
“It has always been one of my favourite stadiums,” he explained. “It is a really hostile place to play at, the fans are right on top of you and it will be nice to have them on my back rather than jumping down my throat.”
He has savoured the intensity of Everton’s pre-season training. “There is nothing worse for me than going home with energy,” he said. “I like knowing I have put a shift in and pushed myself to the max. I am going home tired and having a good night’s sleep.”
And he loves playing for his country. He started England’s two Uefa Nations League games in June, but is aware a new generation of midfielders threaten his place.
“Playing for England is massive, it is really important for me,” he added.
“Playing more regular football, there is more chance of me being selected.”