Cardiff with money can sometimes appear like a monkey with a handgun. You cower at the mere thought of the damage they might inflict.
Over the years, the club has proven to be far more adept at making a little go a long way than acquiring marquee names that can take them to the next level.
The last time Cardiff were in the Premier League, the Andreas Cornelius transfer shook the empire to it’s very foundations and despite making most of their money back on record signing Gary Medel, there was still the lingering suspicion that they had paid over the odds in the first place.
A club of Cardiff’s size and stature may have to pay a little more to make it worth a player’s while, but not at the expense of the club’s long-term future. That was the dilemma they have faced this season and on the whole, navigated the choppy waters of the transfer window in an impressive manner.
They didn’t overindulge the manager like they did with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and also didn’t panic. It is easy to make rash decisions; see the previous winter window and the pursuit of Gary Madine.
They also did remarkably well to bring in Emiliano Sala last month. The tragedy that followed has overshadowed that achievement, but you only have to look at the lack of permanent signings throughout the division to appreciate what a difficult window it is to operate in.
Ken Choo and Mehmet Dalman did Cardiff proud, but neither are football men and both have other interests that require their attention, inside and outside of the club. Neil Warnock praised the efforts of both throughout January, while also make barbed comments about the inadequate existing set-up at the club.
What Cardiff need more than a new right back or a prolific target man is a Director of Football. With a vacuum of expertise at board level, they need someone to fashion an ethos and establish a more sophisticated scouting network. It always feels like Cardiff are caught cold and at this level, that is a recipe for disaster.
Warnock has repeatedly mentioned his pursuit of Jefferson Lerma in the summer, claiming: “Our number one target in midfield was the lad Bournemouth signed, Lerma. We thought it’d be about five or six million, and I think they paid about £27m.” It is used to show what Cardiff are up against, but also serves to highlight the naivety in their original valuation.
Cardiff’s two main targets last month were Sala and Nice midfielder Adrien Tameze. It has since been revealed that those two were touted around the division by Willie McKay, who has close links to Warnock, via text. Their relationship has been under the microscope as a result of the Sala situation and the fact that the club signed his twin sons, Paul and Jack, has not gone unnoticed in the national press.
Nor has the fact that seven Cardiff players (Sean Morrison, Rhys Healey, Lee Peltier, Joe Ralls, Mark Harris, Lee Tomlin and Leandro Bacuna) are represented by Unique Sports Management, who employ James Warnock, son of Neil. There are rules in place, specifically Section E4 of the Working with Intermediaries Regulations, which specifies that clubs and agents should not do business with one another if there is a family link, to prevent this sort of thing from happening.
You’re out of sight and out of mind in the Championship, but that is not the case in the bright lights of the Premier League. The more you read about Cardiff’s approach to the transfer market, the more it seems like they reach for the lowest hanging fruit and that has worked out OK for them to be fair, but it’s not sustainable and a long-term approach is needed.
As long as the status quo remains, they will be forever at the mercy of the likes of McKay or Jim Solbakken, who represented Solskjaer and most of the raft of players that followed. They need more players like Victor Camarasa, who was a bit of a fluke, spotted as Cardiff scouted an opponent in pre-season.
The likes of Watford and Brighton have very sophisticated scouting models that allow them to punch above their weight. There is no magic formula for signing players and even at clubs with the greatest resources, there is still usually a 50/50 split as to whether they thrive or flop. Asking Choo and Dalman to jump in and compete with these clubs twice a year is a huge ask though.
To date, it’s a role that only existed for a couple of weeks, between Russell Slade’s dismissal and eventual move to Charlton. Since then, there has been no mention of back-filling the post. If Cardiff are to truly ever belong in the upper echelons, then someone that can juggle the trust of Vincent Tan with the needs of Warnock is a must.