On the 10th October, View From The Ninian wrote a piece suggesting that Joe Ralls’ suspension following his desperate lunge on Lucas Moura at Wembley may actually be a blessing in disguise. Can we say “told you so” after two games?
The fundamental argument made was that Ralls’ absence presented Aron Gunnarsson with an opportunity of a lifetime, a starting XI berth in a Premier League team. The real question was whether Gunnars would grasp the opportunity or let it pass him by like an Icelandic iceberg, sailing past Reykjavik’s port. Come 1700 on Saturday 20th October it would be fair to say that some of those questions had been answered emphatically.
Gunnarsson has played for Cardiff since the 8th July 2011, which means he has been a Bluebird for 2,688 days or seven years, four months and 8 days. In other words, he’s been a Bluebird for a long time and along with Joe Ralls is the longest-serving playing squad member ahead of Kadeem Harris .
They say familiarity breeds contempt and for some supporters this certainly seems to be case. Aron Gunnarsson had been written off as a sick-note and “past it” by some sections of the Cardiff City support. I must confess that even my admiration for the Iceman had melted as his influence had waned.
Whilst in discussion with fellow VFTN writer @scottsltr for the Liverpool pod, it became apparent that we may just be overlooking a vital asset. It may just be time for Bluebirds to gain a little perspective on what is in fact, a World Cup and European Championship captain.
If Cardiff City were to lose him (don’t forget he is out of contract at the end of the season), just how much money would it take to replace him and would the Bluebirds even be able to attract someone who’s at the peak of their playing power and regularly playing in international tournaments?
Let’s take a look at three different examples that may give some perspective on the Iceman’s unappreciated value:
Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal
Value: EUR 112 million (fee paid by Juventus 2018)
International Caps: 154
International Goals: 85
The enigmatic Ronaldo is an undisputed global superstar that will be remembered as one of the all-time great footballers. Not only has he scored literally hundreds of goals in top club competitions, but he has led his country to an unlikely European Championship title too.
Whilst Gunnars and Ronaldo may have slightly different trophy cabinets (and bank balances), Cristiano represents the very top of the pile in International captains that, like the Iceman, have led their teams at a World Cup and a European Championship.
Sergio Ramos – Spain
Value: EUR 46 million (according to Transfermarkt)
International Caps: 160
International Goals: 16
Whilst not universally loved outside of Spain, it goes without saying that Sergio Ramos is one of the modern greats having won multiple international and club honours including one World Cup, two European Championships and four Champions League trophies.
Ramos has led his country with distinction and you would be hard pressed to find many clubs that wouldn’t take want him lining up in the starting XI. The iconic centre-back is in a different league to the Iceman, but once again, this is the type of player that has captained their country at both the World Cup and European Championships.
Hugo Lloris – France
Value: EUR 30 million (according to Transfermarkt)
International Caps: 105
Yet again, here we have a World Cup winning captain and leader to boot. Tottenham Hotspur’s shot stopper extraordinaire has led his French team from being beaten quarter-finalists in Brazil in 2014 to winners in 2018 and is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League.
Whilst most Bluebirds love Neil Etheridge, not many would prefer the Philippine number one over the French captain. Here again, is an example of what an international captain looks like, and costs.
Gunnarsson will forever hold the distinction of being Cardiff City’s very first player to score in the Premier League and it’s about time us Bluebirds realised just how much of an asset the Iceman is.
He is a natural leader and will often be seen chiding and encouraging team members (and supporters) galvanising the side when under pressure. It is truly a privilege for Cardiff City to count him amongst their numbers, long may it continue!