Cardiff City are facing up to one of their most significant summer transfer windows in recent memory.
Boss Steve Morison is set to oversee a huge upheaval of the first-team squad, with as many as 10 first-team players out of contract, and a further five loanees set to return to their parent clubs. Morison subsequently has a monumental task on his hands as he aims to build a competitive squad for next season.
Morison himself appears positive about the project that awaits him, and has even ramped up the excitement ahead of the coming weeks. But the scale of the challenge certainly won’t be lost on him, or indeed City’s fans, who will be hoping for a far more positive campaign next term.
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Alex Smithies and Marlon Pack have already confirmed they won’t be here for the next chapter of the Morison project, with the latter recently linked with a reunion with Bristol City, while the likes of Leandro Bacuna, Josh Murphy, Ciaron Brown, Aden Flint and Isaac Vassell all seem certain to join them. The future of Will Vaulks looks similarly uncertain, with former club Rotherham United already mentioned as a possible destination, although that talk has since been cooled by Millers boss Paul Warne.
Out of all the players coming to the end of their current deals, it’s understood that Joe Ralls is the most likely to be kept on, with the midfielder already offered a contract on reduced terms. Sean Morrison is another who could yet be kept on a short-term basis as he bids to return to full fitness, but the choice appears to be down to both players as to whether they are willing to stay or not.
In terms of the loanees, it seems unlikely that Alfie Doughty, Jordan Hugill and Uche Ikpeazu will return. Morison has already admitted that he’d love to have Tommy Doyle and Cody Drameh back, although there are big questions over both of them. Sources in the capital believe both players are likely to attract the attention of clubs higher up the food chain, although a return hasn’t categorically been ruled out by anyone at this stage.
In the case of Drameh, Cardiff may well be keeping a close eye on Leeds United’s bid to avoid relegation from the Premier League. Should Jesse Marsch fail to keep Leeds in the top flight, it’s difficult to see the right-back being loaned out to a Championship rival, and Cardiff certainly wouldn’t have the financial muscle to buy a player of his quality. Nothing has yet been ruled out, but certainly a lot will depend on where Leeds see Drameh fitting in, and whether they can offer regular first-team football – regardless of what division they happen to be in.
In terms of incomings, it seems likely that former Newcastle United goalkeeper Jak Alnwick will be City’s first signing of the summer, which may well spark questions over Dillon Phillips’ future. The 26-year-old has already spent much of his Cardiff career behind the now departing Smithies, so it remains to be seen where he would fit in should the St Mirren stopper be brought in.
Similar questions have already been asked of James Collins, who slipped further down the pecking order towards the end of last season. A striker is an area Cardiff will look to target, with Brighton youngster Andi Zeriqi a name who City are keeping tabs on. TNS star Declan McMannus is another player they’ve had a look at recently.
When it comes to firepower, Gareth Bale is of course another name who simply refuses to go away, although it’s not a deal that Cardiff are actively working on. Indeed, if it’s to even become anything other than a faint possibility Bale himself would need to make the first move.
Questioned on the potential for a move, Morison said: “I’m not going to go and get Gareth Bale’s number and ring him and say, ‘Oh, by the way, do you want to come and join Cardiff?’
“It’s an absolute no-brainer. It would be great. It would be a great boost for everybody. But if it did happen, he would have to come and be part of the change. He would have to come and fit in and buy into it.”
Getting the right characters on board is clearly a big part of Morison’s blueprint, and it’s no surprise to see Cardiff subsequently linked with some of his former colleagues. Ex-Millwall team-mate Jed Wallace is a player he likes, but a deal is likely to be beyond Cardiff’s reach. However, Josh Laurent, who played with Morison at Shrewsbury, is a name firmly on the radar.
Indeed, midfield is clearly an area ripe for strengthening. Forest Green Rovers star Ebou Adams, who is out of contract this summer, is another name who Cardiff like, although the recently-crowned League Two champions are keen on offering him a new deal, with Blackpool also lurking.
The most recent link has been a defender, with Cardiff mentioned by reports in Scotland as being admirers of Rangers youngster Kyle McClelland, who again is out of contract this summer. However, it’s understood they’re likely to face strong competition from Hibernian, while Premier League side West Ham have also been mentioned.
Mahlon Romeo, another former Millwall team-mate is seen as a potential option as Morison looks to rebuild his back line, while centre-back Aji Alese is also a possible loan deal Cardiff may similarly look to explore.