The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY -

CARDIFF fans knew it was com­ing, but the news that Aron Gun­nars­son will leave the club next sum­mer is still a blow.

The Ice­land mid­fielder – and reign­ing player of the year – has told man­ager Neil Warnock his body can no longer with­stand the rigours of the Cham­pi­onship.

Un­less the Blue­birds win pro­mo­tion, he will de­camp to warmer, gen­tler climes.

A cur­sory glance at the stats makes Gun­nars­son’s rea­son­ing look shaky.

His ca­reer tally of 407 games is about av­er­age for a man of 28.

In fact, he has played fewer matches than Michael Owen or Ser­gio Aguero at the same age – and those are play­ers hardly renowned for their har­di­ness.

The dif­fer­ence, of course, is the di­vi­sion. Few jobs in football are as phys­i­cally de­mand­ing as that of a Cham­pi­onship mid­fielder. Go­ing box-to-box isn’t so much an as­set as a ne­ces­sity. Get­ting stuck in is the first bul­let point on the per­sonal spec.

Only twice in the nine sea­sons since he joined Coven­try has Gun­nars­son played fewer than 40 games.

No lay-offs, no time to re­cu­per­ate. Pure, non-stop, mileage. This sea­son’s nag­ging an­kle is­sues are, per­haps, a symp­tom of that slog.

Could there be an ul­te­rior mo­tive? Of course. Gun­nars­son will be 29 in April. The World Cup thus rep­re­sents his fi­nal shot at at­tract­ing a big club, at win­ning the bumper contract that will set him up for life. As a free agent, those prospects are vastly im­proved.

What­ever the case, you can’t help but wish him well. The guy is a model pro who has done Cham­pi­onship dirty work for the best part of a decade.

He has earned the right to give his body a break – and his bank bal­ance a bost.

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