Cardiff City Got the Best Value for Money in the January Transfer Window
The January transfer window is renowned for being a more difficult part of the year in which to do business, but Cardiff City managed to emerge from the winter opening in far better condition than that which they entered it.
Cup-tied players, assurances over playing time, inflate transfer fees and doubts over moving club mid-season are just some of the obstacles that stand in the way of those January hopes coming to fruition.
That being said, the Premier League new boys, under the tutelage of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer going through his first January as a manager in the English top flight, showed that there is without a doubt good-value deals to be done.
1. Old Projects Renewed
Solskjaer isn't one to not use all the tools at his disposal to their fullest, and it just so happens that one of the Bluebirds boss' most intimate assets is his access to the Norwegian market.
The former Molde helmsman worked quickly to secure deals for Mats Moller Daehli and Jo Inge Berget, both of whom were under his charge in Norway.
Having spent time in the academies of Manchester United and Udinese, respectively, Daehli and Berget both look to be highly promising individuals who Cardiff can now shape within their own ranks.
That wasn't the only deal concluded where Solskjaer's past relationships played a part, though, as Magnus Wolff Eikrem, another Molde alumni with experience in the Old Trafford youth ranks, was brought in after spending just six months with Heerenveen.
Under any other manager, deals for the trio would likely have taken more time in materialising and may not have come as cheaply, either. However, rekindling some old companionship along the way, Solskjaer's longstanding ties pushed the deals for three very promising players over the line.
2. Quantity with a Hint of Quality
Cardiff City were busier than any other Premier League club this winter, adding seven new names to their roster, only one of whom wasn't a permanent acquisition.
Considering the club only sold four players, that leaves the management with a much healthier number in the squad than what was previously at hand.
It's an ideal situation for managers to find themselves in as they head for their first Premier League end-of-season run-in, with options in every part of the pitch and injuries not quite the worry they once might have been.
As a newcomer to the division, one of Cardiff's greatest fears coming into this campaign will be coming up short not just on numbers, but also in what the backups to those missing brought to the table in terms of quality.
Now, though, the club are starting to resemble a side of the Premier League calibre more so. Kenwyne Jones, for example, while having his less prolific stretches in England, is a savvy purchase for the Welsh hopefuls.
The Trinidad and Tobago international is already proving that, too, having bagged the winner in a 2-1 defeat over Norwich City for his debut.
Every move made in the winter has a distinct purpose to their presence, with no sacrifices made in standard just so that the club could fill a pair of boots in the roster.
3. Cutting Your Losses
It's something that often eludes even the biggest of clubs, but shedding the dead wood can often be just as important as finding that blockbuster transfer that you've been looking to make for so long.
Granted, it's not as common for clubs to release even those looked upon as unnecessary in January, but selling them for a fee is even better should they no longer warrant a place in the squad.
Andreas Cornelius, having broken the club's transfer record but failing to make an impact at the Cardiff City Stadium, is now back in Copenhagen, and Solskjaer was clearly not blown back by what he had to see.
Even though it means taking a hit on the chequebook, the manager is smart to cut ties with a player he has no use for, freeing up wages and a small amount of funds in order to reinvest.
Rudy Gestede and Peter Odemwingie were two other forwards proving to have minimal impact in South Wales, with the latter's sale being of particular worth seeing as it financed part of the deal to swap Jones in his place.
And lastly, Craig Conway, having spent the first half of the season on loan at Brighton, was shifted on as a permanent transfer to Blackburn Rovers.
Of the quartet, Conway may be considered the most difficult to let go considering his valiant contributions to the side in recent seasons, but the midfielder is more reminiscent of their championship days than anything else.
4. Reducing the Age Gap
While it's important to have that seasoned look about any team looking to compete in the Premier League, maintaining a firm foundation in the up-and-coming resources has become increasingly important down the years.
It's not always common for a newly promoted side to focus too much of their structure around the talent of tomorrow, but it appears the new Cardiff hierarchy won't adapt to that trend of thinking solely about the present.
The seven names to have joined the capital outfit last month boast an average age of 23, while the four names to have departed hold an average of just over 26.
The 29-year-old Jones brings the former aggregate up somewhat on his own, with the rest of those players acquired all being in their early 20s.
It's a subtle change, but an impacting one nonetheless, and it's encouraging to see that the club aren't entirely concentrated on just securing their immediate futures, but perhaps preparing for what could shape up to be a prosperous future.
5. Solskjaer's Old Trafford Connection
Having previously mentioned Solskjaer's ties to Molde and Norway as a whole, one can't wrap up this January without covering the ex-forward's exploitation of his Red Devils connections.
Fabio, having failed to really make a go of things from all those years of sitting behind Gabriel Heinze, is a relatively low-risk player who could yet produce big gains for Cardiff City.
So often do we hear talk of the Da Silva twins and the arguments regarding who was supposedly better in their youth or who's better now. Despite Fabio's failure to impress at the Theatre of Dreams, the Brazilian full-back remains a player with a wealth of useful experience playing under a boss who knows him as well as any other he might hope for.
Then comes the loan signing of Wilfried Zaha. Having provided two assists in his debut—last weekend's 2-1 win over the Canaries—it's already clear just what the winger intends to do with more playing time thrown in his direction.
Zaha has rode David Moyes' bench for long enough, and he is now at a club that's far from out of his reach when it comes to his hopes for a place in the starting XI.
One for just few months and the other for what they'll hope is much longer, Cardiff's two signings from Manchester United show precisely how to efficiently use one's address book—which, in Solskjaer's case, is filled to the brim with useful contacts.