Following the jubilation at securing promotion to the Premier League as Championship victors last season, all eyes soon became fixated on what Cardiff City’s transfer policy would entail this summer and how the rumoured £25m transfer budget would be distributed by manager, Malky Mackay.
But with less than a week to go until the start of the new top-flight season, the Bluebirds have significantly exceeded everybody’s expectations with who they have managed to bring in, installing hope into the supporters and signalling their intent to build a future in the league at the same time.
Mackay and the Cardiff boardroom have evidently done a lot of due diligence in their scouting of targets, as not only has ambition been highlighted through the arrivals, but it’s about the quality of those new signings and the clubs those players have deserted in order to join the Welsh club’s imposing project.
It’s a transfer strategy that involves buying gifted potential, with particular notice to Andreas Cornelius (£7.5m, Copenhagen) and Steven Caulker (£8m, Tottenham), but the most recent and distinguished capture to signify Mackay’s eye for class in the market is Sevilla’s hard-hitting defensive midfielder, Gary Medel for around €13m (£11m).
Los Rojiblancos will be competing in this season’s UEFA Europa League, further highlighting how big of coup Medel is for Cardiff, but with classy French wonderkid Geoffrey Kondogbia now the main man in his position at Sevilla, the Chile international admitted his departure would benefit all parties involved and his character traits are exactly what Mackay needs in the middle of the park this season.
Upon entering the Premier League as minnows, Cardiff will be aware that all 38 games in the Premier League can be judged as “huge” and they will indisputably need the help of their passionate fan base throughout the journey. The importance of signing battlers and players willing to do anything on the pitch to win was colossal, and Medel possesses experience in one of the biggest derbies in the world during his time with Boca Juniors – El Superclasico against River Plate – and that could pay dividends as a debutant in the league renowned as the toughest and most gruelling in the world.
The 26-year-old has been praised on many occasions in the past for his notorious man-marking job on FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi in several fixtures in Spain, and Cardiff will unquestionably need somebody like him to get in the faces of opposing teams’ most influential players in the upcoming campaign and not allow them to exploit their backline.
Being likened to former AC Milan firebrand Gennaro Gattuso and holding the nickname ‘El Pitbull’ doesn’t make many people immediately think of a graceful midfielder, however Medel isn’t a dirty player by any stretch but it’s safe to say you would rather have him on your team than not and he will easily strike fear into those that cross his path very early on.
Medel made 31 appearances in total for Sevilla last season, making an average of 2.5 tackles a match (79 all season), whilst committing 1.5 fouls per game (47 all season). He hassles attackers and will do everything to nick the ball away, in order to ease the pressure on his defence and feed the midfielders sitting just in-front of him.
He made an average of 1.5 (47 all season) interceptions per game and his passing accuracy overall was 87.5% after making 1652 passes (51.6 a match on average) all season (via WhoScored.com). This video typifies his style of play and commitment when testing himself against the top sides (Barcelona) for Sevilla:
Much is made of the physical side to Medel’s game, but he did manage to scored six goals and create three assists in La Liga last season, also netting a solitary goal in the Copa del Rey as Unai Emery’s side reached the semi-finals before losing to eventual winners Atletico Madrid.
He averaged around one shot (32 all season) a game and made a total of 19 key passes all season, but some have questioned Medel’s concentration levels at times having been dispossessed 29 times last season and his disciplinary record is far from commendable.
In 94 games for Sevilla, Medel received seven red cards and since joining La Liga from Argentina in 2011, no player has been shown more than him. His explosive temperament is an obvious issue for Mackay to try and deal with, as opposing teams will easily aggravate him into doing something stupid and Cardiff cannot afford to be playing Premier League fixtures with ten men.
Last season, he was sent off for a supposed headbutt on FC Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas when it later appeared the former Arsenal man actually made the most of it and deliberately got Medel sent off.
Medel is often infuriated when given a booking or a red card from referees and it will be a job in itself trying to keep him calm on the field for the benefit of his team-mates. Sevilla have been a successful side in Spain over the last couple of years and this newest chapter in Medel’s career is a completely different ball game, but should he calm his approach in Wales, there is no denying that a quality player has just walked through the doors at the Cardiff City Stadium.
The likes of Peter Whittingham, Jordan Mutch, Aron Gunnarsson and Kim Bo-Kyung love to get the ball under control and create opportunities for the strikers and Medel’s presence just behind them will ease their defensive duties and help them focus on conjuring up goalscoring chances.
Mackay will look for Craig Bellamy to lead from example due to his past experiences at the top level with Manchester City, Liverpool and many others, plus it will be interesting to see how his demeanour will gel with Medel’s.
The signing of Medel for a reported £11m means that Cardiff have smashed their transfer record fee three times since promotion and that in itself speaks volumes about the desire the club has to prolong their Premier League status, rather than it just remaining a fling.
Toulouse midfielder, Etienne Capoue was the club’s original target for the holding midfield role but although a deal was agreed with the club, the 25-year-old was ultimately holding out for a move to a European team and Tottenham have since come calling for his services.
The Frenchman on average won more aerial duals, made more interceptions, scored more goals and pulled off more passes that Medel did last season, but both are different and it would be incredibly wrong of anybody to compare what they would have offered to Cardiff this season.
Medel has the promise to become an established holding midfielder in the Premier League for Cardiff and although much does depend on how he behaves, the overall message is that he ticks the boxes of what Cardiff needed to acquire this summer and although they have all the makings to flourish this season, one more winger, preferably right-sided, would be the icing on top of the cake as far as preparation goes for the new season.
Recent article on Steven Caulker’s arrival at Cardiff and what he can bring to the table this season: Cardiff Sign Steven Caulker