At the beginning of August, as some of you may have read on here, I spent 6 days living it up in Copenhagen. The primary reason for me being out in Scandinavia was to watch the second leg of Swansea’s Europa League qualifier against Malmö FF, but with my Scandinavian base set up in Copenhagen, of course I was going to delve into Danish league football as well.
On our designated ‘non-football’ ‘tourist day’ in Copenhagen, I decided to defy the ‘non-football day’ rule and drag myself along to FC Copenhagen’s home ground, Parken, which would not be hosting any football that day, but instead it was preparing itself to host Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame. The club shop had all the usual FC Copenhagen peripheries: shirts, mugs, hats, scarves and of course crates of Carlsberg. Yet as we wandered the club shop and circled the ground itself, one person’s name and image kept popping up: Andreas Cornelius.
I’d be lying if I said I had heard of Cornelius a month before that trip to Parken, but as a follower of Welsh football the name had then recently become familiar to me. On 1st July 2013 Andreas Cornelius signed for newly promoted to the Premier League Cardiff City on a 5 year deal. Danes coming to the Premier League has never exactly been a strange occurrence and many have gone on to be very successful: players such as Daniel Agger, Thomas Sorenson, Jesper Gronkjaer, Thomas Gravesen and not forgetting Peter Schmeichel amongst many others probably (the less said about Christian Poulsen’s Premier League stint, the better). Even Swansea City are currently benefiting from the managerial touch of the definitive ‘Great Dane’ himself: Michael Laudrup. This summer has also seen Christian Eriksen move to Tottenham from Ajax and the highly rated Jores Okore has moved to Aston Villa (although sadly he’s picked up a very serious and lengthy injury), along with Danish striker Nicklas Helenius. To me, It seems that the Cornelius switch to Cardiff from FC Copenhagen has gone largely unnoticed. This might not be too surprising, but when you acknowledge the fact that he’s only 20 and Cardiff have parted with £8.5m to land him, then I’m surprised that more haven’t stood up and taken notice of the transfer.
Cornelius had already departed for Cardiff by the time I arrived at Parken, yet the way his face was plastered everywhere, I assumed that the FCK fans must have been devastated to see him leave. I was surprised to learn the next day that this didn’t exactly appear to be the case. The day after my Parken visit, I met up with some Copenhagen fans before the FC Nordsjaellend v FC Copenhagen Superliga game I was attending and asked them their views on Cornelius’ departure to the glittering lights of the Premier League and Wales’ capital. I was surprised when I was not greeted with moans of despair about losing their star striker and instead their tone was indifferent to the departure. The general feel I was getting from the Copenhageners was that Cornelius had done a job for them in the Superliga, but that he wasn’t of a quality to compete in the Premier League.
“But they’ve paid £8.5m for him! He must be good,” I exclaimed. I thought my new FC Copenhagen pals might just be feigning disappointment at first, but they generally seemed to be more than happy with the money they had got for Cornelius and this seemed to be the general stance from most of the FCK fanbase. In fact, as I looked around at the hundreds of Copenhagen fans around me, I only spotted one shirt with Cornelius printed on the back of it (although I thought perhaps some had chosen not to wear theirs after he’d left the club and I’ve since learnt that he was the highest selling ‘name and number’ print for the club last season by quite some distance). So what made Cardiff dish out such a high price for the Dane in the first place?
In regards of his career stats for FC Copenhagen, there aren’t many. Why? Well, the 2012-2013 Danish Superliga was Cornelius’ first, and so far only, full season playing regularly in a professional league. Cornelius made his senior debut as a substitute for FC Copenhagen on 9th April 2012 in a league game at AGF. In the break between the 2011/2012 season and the 2012/2013 season it was announced that Cornelius would be linking up with the first team squad permanently and the faith placed him was repaid immediately, as he scored in the first game of the season against FC Midtjylland. From there on in the goals would not stop coming. Week after week Cornelius would find the net for Løverne (The Lions), in the league and in Europe, and despite being only 19 years old, he would play a huge part in leading the club to the Danish Superliga title that season. Cornelius’ record at the end of the 2013/2013 Danish Superliga season would read 34 games, 18 goals – an impressive return for any striker, no matter what league you are playing in.
Unsurprisingly, for a player with a 6″4 frame, Cornelius is a powerful centre forward, who is lethal with his aerial ability; this is reflected with the Danish striker finishing the season with 8 goals from headers. His brutal power combined with his strong work ethic, should mean that Cornelius will be more than tough enough to deal with the physical demands that come with being a Premier League centre forward. That isn’t to say that Cornelius is all about raw strength and goalscoring. Yes, you know what cliche is coming next: he also has ‘a good touch for a big man’.
So he’s dubbed as a formidable target man with a good goalscoring record, supposedly a perfect fit for the Premier League and worth over £8m at 20 years old – why, now that we are a few months into the Premier League, is the name not on the lips of your average Premier League fan? One word: injury. Cornelius has been dogged by injuries since the opening weeks of the season.
In the run-up to the 2013/14 season, Malky Mackay had sung the praises of Cornelius and had tipped him to be a goalscoring force in the Premier League. The first occurrence of Cornelius’ ankle injury came during preseason, but there was to be a recurrence of the injury in Cornelius’ first and still only ever outing for Cardiff in a League Cup game against Accrington Stanley. Mackay has recently issued reassurances that Cornelius will return from his injuries in the near future, yet as October heads towards November there is still talk that Cornelius is still working with physios in the gym and not out on the training pitch with the rest of the team.
Before Martin Jol’s Fulham recently took on Cardiff at Craven Cottage (and lost), the Dutch manager claimed that he too had looked at signing Cornelius for Fulham, but was deterred by what he believed to be a hefty price tag. Was Jol lucky in avoiding paying such a fee for the Danish striker? Have Cardiff spent a lot of money on an injury crop? For me, it is far too soon to make such a derogative claim; he’s still only 20 after all and Cardiff have the striker tied up to a 5-year deal.
Cardiff will be desperate to have Cornelius back in the fold in their search for a truly potent Premier League striker. Cardiff have plenty of depth in the striker department with players such as Frazier Campbell, Nicky Maynard and of course Welsh talisman Craig Bellamy, yet as well as Cardiff have started the season, they still do not look to have the sort of goalscorer who is going to score goals consistently for them and fire them to heralded ’40 point mark’. The issue of Cardiff having an out-and-out goalscorer reared its head last season, as no Cardiff player reached double figures; although many Cardiff fans would argue that they still claimed the Championship title without a prolific striker. However, I feel in the Premier League that Cardiff will need a goalscorer to make survival in the Premier League a possibility. Nicky Maynard is still very much an unproven quantity at this level and has returned from a lengthy injury himself; I’ve always been a big fan of Campbell, but I personally don’t believe he’ll get to around the 15 goals mark; and Bellamy is Bellamy – he will give everything for the cause (when fully fit), but he’s never exactly been a prolific goalscoring striker. That leaves Cornelius. Maybe he could be Cardiff’s goal machine. Maybe that’s why Mackay is being so careful in protecting the Danish striker and not rushing him back from injury. Only time will tell if the £8.5m spent on the striker was really worth it and if Cardiff’s new number 9 can fire Cardiff into remaining a Premier League club.