Cardiff City’s transfer activity will really begin to motor in the coming weeks and months.
It is Mick McCarthy’s first summer in charge of the Bluebirds and, make no mistake, he is determined to shape this squad into a promotion-winning team next season.
The manager said just a few months ago that he has “unfinished business” with the Premier League and he will hope to address that the season after next.
In order to do that, though, he must assemble a squad which he feels can tackle the obstacles which come with such a marathon season in the Championship.
The club have already moved quickly to sign James Collins, who will join on a free transfer, but the work is nowhere near done yet.
In terms of outgoings, well, they will prove just as crucial if the recruitment side of things is to go smoothly.
So, here, we look at the best and worst-case scenarios for the Bluebirds this summer.
The best case
Keeping hold of Kieffer
Make no mistake, the future of Kieffer Moore is crucial to whether Cardiff’s transfer window is a success or a failure.
Keeping hold of a player who managed to score 20 league goals in a season is no easy feat, but Cardiff are desperate to secure the player’s future in south Wales next term.
Not only has he produced the goods in front of goal, he is so crucial to the way City play under McCarthy that his departure would drastically alter how City line up next season.
There will be contingency planning, of course, there will be Plan A, Plan B and Plan C should a situation arise where Cardiff receive an offer too good to turn down, but it would have to be sizeable enough to reinvest and assuage at least some of the loss of his departure.
Moore has been brilliant and at just £2million, is up there with some of the best business Cardiff have done in years.
Drum up cash by shifting out fringe players
Cardiff’s transfer strategy will centre around being frugal in this summer window, which means there will certainly be departures.
The Bluebirds have a number of players on the fringes who will likely need to seek new challenges elsewhere next season and, if all goes well, drum up some cash for City in doing so.
Robert Glatzel is someone likely heading for the exit door. His departure will hopefully put some cash in the coffers, providing there are interested parties.
Gavin Whyte has returned from Hull City, however a move away could be a viable option for him. Isaac Vassell should be fit and firing for pre-season, but given the wealth of options up front McCarthy has at his disposal, the opportunity for game-time for him, if he stays injury-free, looks minimal at best.
Having two first-choice goalkeepers is again another issue which is creeping into the equation. Alex Smithies is a top keeper, but he is on a hefty wage and whether there is need for both him and Dillon Phillips is certainly questionable.
Then there is the possibility of more prominent first-team stars in Lee Tomlin and Josh Murphy leaving. They are among the most talented players in the squad with the ball at their feet, but they also have injury or consistency issues which are hamstringing them. They are both players who could command decent-sized transfer fees if clubs register interest. Both would need replacing, though.
Selling four or five of the players above would hopefully drum up somewhere north of £7m or £8m and that, in this precarious financial landscape, is no pocket change.
Utilising the loan market
The loan market must be used to Cardiff’s benefit this summer as it was 12 months ago.
This time, though, there might be more of an emphasis placed on loaning players out and some could really do with the game-time.
With so many strikers on the books, one would think one, potentially even two of Max Watters, Isaak Davies and Mark Harris would benefit from regular first-team football elsewhere next term, even if only on a short-term deal until January.
Harris has signed a new contract but McCarthy is not averse to seeing him head out on loan, with Crewe reportedly interested in taking him next season.
Watters has had to wait patiently in the wings but McCarthy has handed him next to no game-time at all, so unless there is a drastic change then he will need to be shipped out.
While Davies was due to start the final game of the season against Rotherham, but was cruelly struck by injury on the eve of the game. He will be involved in the first-team set-up from pre-season onwards, unless a good loan option presents itself.
McCarthy has also said that the club will explore the loan market again this term as it worked so well for them last term. Indeed, chairman Mehmet Dalman have told Liverpool they would be happy to have Harry Wilson back again on loan, but that looks unlikely with the Wales international almost certainly set to seal a permanent move away from Anfield this summer.
But the loan market is a viable avenue for Cardiff, who will want to minimise their outlay on transfer fees in the upcoming window. It is understood the club have already made some enquiries about Premier League youngsters seeking Championship loans next term.
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Getting first-choice targets in key positions
And, lastly, the Bluebirds must fill the problem positions early on. They have done well with the early addition of Collins, but there is still much more to do.
Two have been identified by Dalman as left wing and playmaker, while it is thought left-back is an area of increasing concern as Joe Bennett’s contract situation rumbles on.
Pertaining to the left wing, it is understood that Portsmouth star Ronan Curtis is among the list of candidates Cardiff have drawn up. The Republic of Ireland international has netted double figures for three seasons running from out on the left.
Meanwhile, a playmaker will be needed to replace Wilson, who has headed back to Liverpool and that could make or break the window, given the importance of that position and the impact the Welshman had there this season.
At left-back, Sheffield Wednesday’s Adam Reach was someone of interest, however a deal could not be struck and, barring a last-minute U-turn, he looks likely to head elsewhere; Norwich City are the latest to be linked with him.
They will need to fill that position quickly, though, if Bennett leaves, because they have only 19-year-old relatively untested academy graduate Joel Bagan as the only other viable alternative. While he is thought of highly within the club, he will need help throughout the course of such an unrelenting season.
The worst case
Moore leaves and no takers for Glatzel
The disaster scenario would be if all goes wrong up front.
Should a sizeable offer come in for Moore and the club cannot get a suitable replacement then that would be a serious dent to next season’s plans.
Moore would only leave if a sizeable offer came in, that much we know, so it is reasonable to think then that if that hypothetical offer was tabled early enough, Cardiff would be able to throw enough money at the problem to get a more than decent replacement in. The sum would have to cover the transfer fee of someone like Jonson Clarke-Harris, as an example.
But if a bid is lodged in the last throes of the window and Cardiff cannot replace Moore then it really would be problematic.
Moreover, if no suitor comes in for Glatzel and they end up being lumbered with his wages, despite McCarthy having already made his feelings rather clear about the player, then that is an added complication.
That appears unlikely, however, as the German is bound to have admirers either in this country or back in his homeland, but there is every possibility that could happen.
The striker stable gets clogged up
In addition to the above, if none of the players get moved on then there is another issue on Cardiff’s hands.
City cannot have a situation in which Moore, Collins, Glatzel, Harris, Watters, Vassell and Davies are all in situ. That number needs to be chopped by three before the season begins.
Chances are thin on the ground as it is at the minute.
Moore and Collins represent the most likely striking duo to start together next season, while Harris, Watters and Davies will all be scrapping for minutes if none are able to be sent out on loan.
The forward line is one which needs real addressing when it comes to chopping the numbers.
A playmaker deal fails and injuries strike
This, potentially, is a sizeable problem Cardiff could face.
We understand Cardiff are working hard to get a playmaker in ahead of next season, with Tomlin and Jonny Williams both already in situ.
Tomlin has shown just what a tremendous player he can be in a Cardiff City shirt. He won Player of the Season last year and almost single-handedly dragged them to the play-offs. He didn’t quite have the impact Moore had this term, but he wasn’t a million miles behind him.
Williams, meanwhile, is adored wherever he goes. He is loved for his exploits in the red jersey of Wales and McCarthy knows all about him. It remains to be seen whether he will be kept on this year, as we wait for the club to release their retained list, but all the signals point towards him being offered new terms.
He hasn’t done it in a Cardiff shirt yet, but there is certainly something in there and a player who is desperate for a run of games and some form.
The big problem, if Cardiff cannot recruit a playmaker, is the injury record of the two players. If both Tomlin and Williams endure injury-hit campaigns next term, then the Bluebirds’ creative reserves are thin on the ground.
We saw 19-year-old Rubin Colwill deployed behind the strikers in the final few fixtures of this season, but he cannot shoulder the creative burden for the entirety of a Championship campaign.
A No.10 acquisition and a clean bill of health for Tomlin and Williams, providing they both stay, is what City will be praying for.