Chairman of the Cardiff board, Mehmet Dalman, reportedly told WalesOnline Kenneth Zohore is “not going anywhere”. This is welcome news for the club’s supporters. Hull City have been lurking and, according to reports, have had two bids turned down; the latest around the £10 million mark. It’s going to take an unprecedented offer to move the club to even consider letting the Danish forward go.
Cardiff have always sold their best players (and usually below market value), the news of interest a few weeks ago would have caused that sinking feeling for a number of supporters. The financial situation at club is still precarious and Zohore is probably the only member of the current squad who could realistically draw an eight-figure fee; the temptation to cash in now would have been strong.
It is great to see the club taking a firm stance for a change, especially with the financial situation still far from secure. On the back of six months of good form, Zohore is hot property and it would be tempting to cash in now as there is no guarantee of continued good form. Nevertheless, Zohore has become a galvanising figure on the field for Cardiff fans (along with Warnock in the dugout) and his image has change from ‘waste of space’ to cult hero status in less than a year. Keeping hold of him not only means Cardiff will be stronger on the pitch, but serves as a token of the supporters (tentative) trust in the board.
Cardiff fans are used to losing their best players. Every generation of fan has seen it: from John Toshack through to Nathan Blake, Aaron Ramsey and, most recently, Cardiff have always sold their best players. Marshall is probably the exception in that he was allowed to move to the Premier League last season after years of committed service to the club. By and large though, City have always sold their most valuable assets at a point when it looked the club might be going somewhere with a player to build a team around.
While Cardiff fans would reluctantly accept the sale of Zohore should an astronomical bid arrive, it really has to be something out of the ordinary. In the past 12 months Aston Villa have shelled crazy sums of money on Championship forwards: £15 million for Jonathan Kodjia, £12 million for Ross McCormack, £9 million for Scott Hogan. Are any of these players really any better than Zohore? McCormack two years ago maybe, but Kodjia and Hogan are somewhat flash in the pans themselves and arguably neither has the potential Zohore does.
These are the benchmark deals that should be matched or exceeded before there can even be a conversation about the Great Dane. Anything less and the Cardiff board should rightly dismiss the approach. Cardiff have sold far too cheaply in the past or too readily written off as a loss expensive investments. Now is the time for Cardiff to put proper value of their assets, to be as assertive and belligerent in getting their valuation of player (rather than accepting the valuation of the bidding club) as other clubs at this level have become. In a market where relegated clubs are awash with Premier League cash, the power lies entirely with the selling club.
As well as getting their valuation for a player, given the noise coming out of the club is that Cardiff are going to have a real go at promotion this season, the question that needs to be asked when contemplating selling such a key player is: can Cardiff reasonably replace him?
When Cardiff sold Michael Chopra in 2007, Dave Jones agreed because he knew he could launch his bid to bring Robbie Fowler and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to the club. With hindsight those were pretty poor deals, but at the time the arrival of two Premier League legends certainly cooled the fans’ disappointment at losing their top scorer.
Given the way the market works today if Cardiff were to accept a bid for Zohore every club in the land will know what Cardiff have to spend and will command a similar fee for any player Neil Warnock targets as a replacement. What would be the point then? On top of this, there aren’t many forwards around that could bring to Cardiff what Zohore on his best day can; certainly none that are available or affordable to Cardiff.
Better then to keep Zohore and build the club’s ambitions around him. If Zohore is as good as his form after Christmas suggests, he’s going to be close to the 20-goal mark this season and Cardiff aren’t going to be far off achieving their target. In a year Zohore’s value could have doubled and Cardiff will be in a much better position to command the sort of fee that will move the board to action.
What if Zohore doesn’t do any of this? Well, there will be a few ‘captain hindsight’ fans out there who’ll bemoan the fact the club failed to cash in; by and large, though, most fans will support the ambition the board showed. When David Marshall was sold last August the frustration among the support wasn’t necessarily that the club were letting their best player go. It was largely due to the fact the club accepted a fee that didn’t match Marshall’s widely regarded status as the best goalkeeper outside the Premier League and was a small fraction of the valuation the club had placed on Marshall seven months previously.
Danny Ward could be seen as a ready-made replacement already at the club, but Ward feels like a signing made to improve the team alongside Zohore, rather than a player waiting to step in and fill the Dane’s boots.
Speaking of Danny Ward, his arrival brings the promise of an exciting attacking partnership, adding weight to the argument to keep Zohore, rather than excusing his sale.
This promise cannot be underestimated. Firstly, it wouldn’t be illogical to suggest if the potential is fulfilled then Cardiff will be a better team, win more matches, perform higher up the league; this in turn might draw bigger crowds, pouring more money into the club’s coffers etc. Just as important, though, is the entertainment factor to consider.
Cardiff fans haven’t exactly had a running tap of excitement for the past few years; it’s been pretty woeful and turgid, the odd game here or there notwithstanding. Warnock’s arrival improved things because he took the team out a dark place, but also gave the team a clear identity, one that aligns closely with how Cardiff City fans feel about their team and football. Much of last season wasn’t champagne football: it was front to back, disciplined, counter-attacking football. But what Warnock did build quickly was a team the Cardiff faithful could get behind.
The next step in the team’s development will be a more exciting, more proactive brand of football. Like most football fans, those at Cardiff want to be entertained on a Saturday afternoon. While nowadays the game is increasingly broken down into the minutiae of detail, it essentially functions as a form of entertainment. Principally it is attacking players that do the entertaining because they are the ones creating the chances and scoring the goals. When a club finds it has an exciting player on their books, the type fans will turn up to see, you have to try and keep hold of him as long as possible.
Kenneth Zohore is one such player and if you can get better players around him, players he can form partnerships with, who knows what magic could be conjured on those grim Saturday afternoons at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff have had some great attacking partnerships down the years, whatever level they have played at: from Len Davies and Hughie Ferguson in the legendary side of the 1920s to John Toshack and Brian Clark in the 1970s, Carl Dale and Phil Stant in the early 1990s and, more recently, Jay Bothroyd and Michael Chopra. Zohore and Ward could well be the next in that line of succession – a cult classic for current fans to bore their progeny with in years to come.
If that isn’t enough of a reason to tell Hull and any other club that comes sniffing around Zohore where to go, then I’m lost.