Cardiff City players at crossroads as Erol Bulut saga complicates matters

Cardiff City's Andy Rinomhota while on loan at Rotherham United -Credit:Getty Images
Cardiff City's Andy Rinomhota while on loan at Rotherham United -Credit:Getty Images

So much remains up in the air while Erol Bulut's future as Cardiff City manager is uncertain.

The Bluebirds squad was improved slightly last year, albeit with a heavy reliance on loan players once again, but this summer, unshackled from the restraints of an embargo on paying fees, the club hope to mould the group into one worthy of launching an attack on the top six.

For that to happen, Cardiff will have to be savvy in how they recruit and, importantly, how they sell and which players they allow to leave. Club representatives at a recent Fan Advisory Board meeting said Cardiff would have to take a "pragmatic position" when it comes to player sales.

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It's not something Cardiff have been all too savvy with, particularly in recent years, but there could be a shift in that regard this summer.

The retained list aside, which has already been signed off by Bulut and Co and will see the likes of Romaine Sawyers, Sheyi Ojo and Rohan Luthra leave, there are a number of players whose fates hang in the balance with just three weeks to go until the transfer window officially opens. We take a look at some of the players with question marks hanging over their heads...

Andy Rinomhota

The central midfielder was seen as a real coup when Cardiff signed him despite interest from a number of Championship rivals. Rinomhota was a good age and well thought of at Reading, having won the player of the season award there in 2019.

He failed to really set the world alight in his first season. While he was lauded for his industry, perhaps the midfield was too imbalanced for him to flourish in his role. That role, of course, has now been taken over by Manolis Siopis and leaves Rinomhota in quite the quandary.

The Zimbabwe international has a year left on his current contract and would no doubt be of interest to a number of clubs in the Championship. He spent the second half of last season on loan at Rotherham United but couldn't avoid relegation.

Ebou Adams

Another player in a similar mould to Rinomhota, although his athleticism and dynamism has him above the former Reading man in the pecking order.

Adams again struggled to burst through amid a midfield stable which included Siopis, Joe Ralls, Ryan Wintle, Aaron Ramsey and Rubin Colwill and had to settle for just 11 Championship appearances, starting only three, before he left for Derby County in January.

He hit the ground running and quickly became a fan favourite at Pride Park, helping them secure promotion to the Championship and even winning the club's goal of the season gong.

Adams has a lot to offer but, like Rinomhota, is at the stage of his career where he needs to be a nailed-on starter now. There needs to be a manager in place to make a call on whether he will get the game time next season or not before a decision is made on his future. One thing's for sure, there will be suitors – namely the Rams.

Callum Robinson

A mystery wrapped in an enigma last season. It was a tricky time for the Republic of Ireland international. Firstly, he was told he wouldn't start until he could prove there was more to his defensive game, so he was reduced to cameo roles off the bench.

Then illnesses, injuries and disciplinary issues blighted the second half of his campaign and the situation raised more than a couple of eyebrows. After all, this was a Cardiff team struggling to score and they had a player with almost 84 Championship goal contributions to his name sitting on the bench or out of the matchday squad.

One feels the manager situation will have a massive bearing on Robinson's future. If it is Bulut, it looks a tough one to come back from – not impossible, of course. If it's a different manager, well, he's a more than capable player at this level if they can get a tune out of him.

Mahlon Romeo

The right-back had a decent maiden campaign in the Welsh capital. He was a constant on the right-hand side and his marauding runs and sprawling defending endeared him to City fans.

Like Robinson, he has had his issues, missing games due to disciplinary action taken by the club, and has been in-and-out of the side, with player of the season Perry Ng nailing down that spot on the right-hand-side of defence.

Off-field issues once again came to light this week when Romeo pleaded guilty to drink driving and abusing a police officer on February 8, two days before he was named on the bench in the 2-0 home defeat by Preston North End.

He has a year left to run on his current deal and he will doubtless be a player the manager will run the rule over in the summer.

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Ryotaro Tsunoda

An unknown quantity for supporters in this corner of the world, really, but a decision will have to be made by the club over what to do with their Japanese defender this summer.

He signed quietly from Yokohama F Marinos in January before being loaned out immediately to KV Kortrijk, where he impressed immediately. The centre-back became one of the standouts in the team — his ball-playing ability particularly stood out — but after just nine games the 24-year-old suffered a hamstring injury which has required surgery.

Depending on how long the rehab is, he could even be injured for the entire window. But if not, the manager will have to assess how much of a part he will play and whether he is better off out on loan once again.

Kieron Evans

It is understood a final decision is yet to be made over Welsh winger Kieron Evans, who had an excellent second half of the season on loan at Gateshead, winning a Wembley final to boot.

Granted, it's not the standard at which Cardiff or Evans would want him to be playing at the age of 22, but you can only play what's in front of you. The manager is expected to have the final say on his future. Sign up to our Cardiff City newsletter here.

The 'sellable assets'

Bulut named four players who he viewed as assets who could command decent transfer fees this summer – Perry Ng, Rubin Colwill, Ryan Wintle and Mark McGuinness.

Bulut said foreign top-flight clubs had enquired about Ng, who is a back-to-back player of the year winner with Cardiff. Colwill, meanwhile, is the subject of transfer interest from the Premier League, according to Bulut.

Mick McCarthy always thought McGuinness would net the club big money if they opted to sell. He is a great age for a centre-back at 23 and had a top first half of the season before he was ruled out for the rest of the campaign.

And Bulut also listed Wintle, who has become a regular ever since he returned from his half-season loan at Blackpool, taking over the arm band when Ralls and Ramsey are not present.

Of course, they are all big players for Cardiff and the manager will want to have their say on whether the funds generated from sales can fill the holes they leave.

Loan exits

Cardiff had 16 players out on loan at the end of last season, that is not an insignificant number and really is actually quite a positive statistic. Largely off the wage bill and playing senior football are both big positives.

More decisions regarding not only young talent but fringe players will have to be made by the manager and club hierarchy. Two first-teamers who will be under consideration when it comes to potential loan departures are young forwards Kion Etete and Ollie Tanner.

Both of them have had bright spots in their Cardiff careers to date but have struggled to really make an impact or find that consistency. Whether Bulut, or a new manager, believes they can eke the best out of them, or whether a loan would be more useful, is certainly part of the debate.

Eli King has had a succession of loans now, taking in spells at Crewe, Morecambe and Ross County. Many believe he is ready to step in and fill a role within the Cardiff squad from next season, but a decision will have to be made there.

Joel Bagan, who has spent the year in Belgium with SV Zulte Waragem, will be the subject of similar discussions, no doubt.

Young talents such as Joel Colwill, Cian Ashford, Luey Giles and Raheem Conte all came in and impressed at the end of the season. Who stays and who is given more exposure with a loan stint elsewhere will be interesting to see and that largely comes down to the manager's discretion.