The summer transfer window may not slam its doors shut for another week, but with Craig Bellamy’s season-long loan to hometown club Cardiff City, the most surprising, and controversial signing of the summer has already taken place.
While fans of the Bluebirds celebrate the arrival of an outstanding Premier League footballer, naturally the 23 other clubs in the Championship have been left to wonder how their rivals, who are several million pounds in debt, have financed such a move.
But, for the time being at least, let’s forget the numerous reports of creditors, winding up orders, transfer embargos and £90,000 weekly salaries that have received just as many column inches as the deal itself. Because above anything else, Bellamy’s move is a human interest story. The sort that makes you realise just how special football can be.
For the Cardiff-born 31-year-old, he has finally returned home, following a nomadic career that prior to his latest move has seen him wear the colours of Norwich, Coventry, Newcastle, Celtic, Blackburn, Liverpool, West Ham and Manchester City in little over a decade.
Never capable of settling down in one place for too long for one reason or another, things were no different at City, with Roberto Mancini deeming him surplus to requirements at Eastlands, despite him being City’s best player last season.
Fed up, and no longer possessing the desire to traipse up and down the country in search of employment, Bellamy decided that if he was going to be forced out, he would only move to his hometown club. It was time.
The allure of living with his wife and children full-time, who have always remained in the Welsh capital, coupled with the prospect of helping Cardiff become the first Welsh side to reach the Premier League, ultimately proved too strong to turn down.
For Cardiff City fans, the Prodigal Son has finally come home. The joyous scenes witnessed in the aftermath of the transfer has been refreshing, and proves that even in an era dominated by hefty transfer fees and gargantuan salaries, fans still love nothing more than to see a local lad playing for his boyhood team.
Acquiring a player of such quality should propel the club into strong promotion candidates, certainly if his debut performance of two assists and a superb free-kick is anything to go by. He was substituted after 87 minutes, and left the field to a standing ovation.
There will be tougher moments for both Cardiff and Bellamy this season, make no mistake, and it will be interesting to see how the club deals with the inevitable spotlight that comes with such a high-profile signing.
It also remains to be seen how Bellamy’s long suffering knees will cope with the rigorous demands of a Championship season, or if he eventually becomes disillusioned playing at a level well below his usual standard.
But as he spoke to the press on Saturday teatime, having inspired his new side to an emphatic 4-0 victory, Bellamy looked more upbeat and relaxed than ever before.
Certainly, for the time being at least, it really does seem that there is no place like home.
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