As of this weekend, Cardiff City has officially been relegated. Vincent Tan's project is a failure, for now at least, and now the Red Dragons/Blue Birds get to spend next season figuring things out in the Championship.
The problem, and one that every relegated side faces, is now they a bunch of players who really don't fit in with the new competition. Some are too good for the Championship, others too expensive. Either way, you can guarantee that other clubs will come a knockin' on Cardiff's door, asking on what it'll take to get this player or that.
The nice thing about buying from relegated teams is that you can usually get good players for a lower price than normal, as the relegated club loses a lot of leverage thanks to the loss of income. Even with the "parachute payments" the Premier League provides, the loss of the new TV revenues is massive for clubs going down, so holding on to their best and/or more expensive players becomes almost impossible.
For Liverpool, there are a handful of players on Cardiff's roster that could be of interest and potentially of great value. Some could be harder tasks to get the signature of than others, but all of these are players that Liverpool should at least think of signing.
Steven Caulker, 22, Center Back
Liverpool aren't exactly in dire need of another center back, with all three of Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, and Mamadou Sakho playing well when called upon this year. They also have Kolo Toure for depth, and Andre Wisdom had a very successful loan with Derby County this season. But when you have the opportunity to sign arguably the best young English center back... well, you sign him, and figure out the rest later. With Caulker and Sakho in hand, Liverpool could be set at the position for the next five years without breaking a sweat.
The competition for Caulker's signature will probably be fierce, and half the Premier League will probably be after him. Many assume that he'll return to Tottenham or get tempted away by Chelsea's money, but the best situations for him might be in the northwest of England, with Liverpool, Manchester United, and Everton all looking like excellent long-term fits for a player of his caliber and skillset. It won't be an easy victory to win, but if Liverpool can get their hands on Caulker, it could be a significant victory indeed.
Gary Medel, 26, Defensive Midfield
Medel is probably the cream of the Cardiff crop. An energetic and effective holding mid, Medel flies all over the pitch to break up play. While everyone heralded Caulker as Cardiff's big coup signing, Medel was the real star of their summer. The Chilean international has easily been Cardiff's best player this season, and absolutely no fault for their relegation is on his shoulders.
Medel is another player who could see fierce competition for his signature, but Liverpool can offer him Champions League football and plenty of playing time with Steven Gerrard almost certain to play fewer league games next season to allow Brendan Rodgers to focus him on the Champions League. He offers a different tactical option to Liverpool's captain in the deep midfield areas, and one that should still mesh well with Rodgers' style.
Aron Gunnarsson, 24, Central Midfield
Gunnarsson may not be a budding star like Caulker or Medel, nor even a likely regular starter for Liverpool. What he can offer, however, is quality depth in midfield. He can perform well in the same all-action role we've seen Jordan Henderson in over the last two years, and Liverpool don't have a true like-for-like replacement for that role. Despite Joe Allen's best efforts, his talents are better suited in a deeper role, supporting and distributing to his fellow midfielders.
With Champions League football approaching, better midfield depth will be vital, and Gunnarsson can provide that. In addition to filling in the box-to-box role that Henderson plays, Gunnarsson is a fair passer himself, and can even play as a holding mid in a pinch. He also plays very well off the bench, seeming to not require as much time as other players to acclimate to a match in progress. If Liverpool want an inexpensive but effective piece to add to their midfield depth chart, they could do a whole lot worse than Gunnarsson.
Craig Bellamy, 34, Wide Forward/Attacking Midfield
I'm pretty sure that if I didn't mention Bellamy, Ed would track me down and flay me. Fortunately for my health, signing Bellamy is actually not a half-bad idea; Liverpool have too frequently lacked a biting edge to bring off the bench and direct add to their attack, and that's exactly what Bellamy can give them. We know from experience that Bellamy likes playing for Liverpool, and giving him one last stab at the Champions League would only be received well by everyone's favorite crazy Welshman. He'd come cheap if not free, and is about the best example of a "why the heck not?" signing you'll find.