“Jonny Williams is a perfect replacement for that.”
So said Cardiff City boss Mick McCarthy recently when quizzed on how to fill the huge Harry Wilson-shaped hole that was opening up this summer.
The timing of those comments, so close to the end of the season, appeared to be a significant transfer hint.
With just one league start to his name since his January arrival, it wouldn’t ordinarily have been a shock to see Williams among those released by the Bluebirds this week, but McCarthy’s public backing of the player suggested there were big plans in place for him next season.
However, Williams becomes a free agent next to Junior Hoilett, Joe Bennett and, of course, Sol Bamba, who also depart the club.
The Cardiff City exits of those three aren’t entirely unexpected, whilst disappointing for some.
Hoilett had fallen out of first-team favour and didn’t fit into McCarthy’s plans, Bennett’s best years are arguably behind him, and Bamba is desperate to get another year of playing time under his belt, something he won’t be guaranteed at Cardiff.
Those three were also high wage earners at the club.
Seeing Williams go, in light of what seemed a genuine enthusiasm to keep him at the club, has been far more of a head-scratcher for City fans.
The exact reasons for opting against a new deal for the 27-year-old Wales star are unclear, but it seems most likely to have been based around the Bluebirds hierarchy cutting their wage bill, with the news of his departure coming just a day before the club announced losses of around £12m.
With Williams playing just nine games during his short spell in the capital, and given his past injury record, perhaps Cardiff just didn’t see him as good value for money.
The remarkable strides made by young Rubin Colwill will also have been factored in, a home-grown player who has wowed the Bluebirds and Wales and should get plenty of Championship game-time next season.
A new No.10 to replace Wilson has also been targeted and will probably come in during the transfer window.
The Bluebirds haven’t even totally given up on the outside prospect of Wilson himself returning for another year, although as things stand that appears unlikely.
Whatever, it is evident Bluebirds bosses see others as a better option to Williams, who possesses the craft to unpick defences but will have to look elsewhere for his football next season.
For what it’s worth, Williams is understood to be disappointed to leave the club, and hasn’t yet given too much thought over his next move. We’re told the upcoming Euro 2020 campaign with Wales is the only thing on the agenda right now.
Could Cardiff still offer Williams a deal later down the line? The possibility has been described as unlikely so far.
As such, this does seem to be the end of Williams as a Cardiff player.
He’ll focus on having a good campaign with Wales, which will likely be seen as the ideal chance to prove a point and put himself in the shop window.
Whatever happens, one suspects a player of his talent won’t be short of suitors.