For many people in football, the screaming, battle-hardened face of Iceland’s captain and midfield destroyer Aron Gunnarsson is merely a terrifying vision that haunts their every waking and sleeping moment.
However, for the people of Cardiff, “The Annihilator” has been a stoic and steadfast defender of the realm since 2011. As the sun set on their 2018-19 season, Aron announced he’d be leaving the club for Al-Arabi in Qatar this summer, finally departing the Welsh capital a firm fan favourite after an eventful eight-year spell.
His stay has seen many ups and downs, from scorching goals to unfortunate injuries. It included two successful Premier League promotion campaigns—and the two relegations that followed. Here’s a recap of Aron’s eventful journey into the hearts and minds of the Welsh massive.
Man of the match
Aron arrived at Cardiff City in 2011, a bright-eyed and bald-faced buck with an André Arshavin-esque brush of hair. A hot property after a successful stint at his previous club Coventry City, he was immediately one of the first names on the team sheet. His physical, robust style and never-say-die attitude quickly started having an impact, and he won over the Cardiff crowd in no time.
He made his mark on October 22nd of his first season, scoring two goals against Barnsley and receiving the Man of the Match award. But little did Cardiff know that deep within this baby-faced Akureyri lad lay the bald-headed, long-bearded, hot-blooded Ragnar Lothbrok of world football.
Mauling Man City
Cardiff were soon elevated to new heights, reaching the League Cup final against a resurgent Liverpool. Despite Aron playing the full 90 minutes, they ultimately lost on penalties.
Full of ire and bursting with a will to smite the country’s top teams, Aron took out his frustration on the hapless Manchester City in their first match of their 2013-14 Premier League season. He smited in the club’s first goal of the season in a noteable 3-2 victory over the eventual winners. He would end up with a total tally of 25 goals for Cardiff—not bad for a defensive midfielder mostly charged with scything through opposition attacks like a hot battleaxe through skyr.
Player of the year
After spending an inhuman amount of his volcanic energy on Iceland’s famous Euro 2016 run, a stop-start period of injuries that followed would mar much of his remaining time at Cardiff. Nevertheless, when he did feature, his assured presence always steadied the team’s longboat. He won the supporter’s Player of the Year award in 2017, also winning the Outstanding Contribution Award in 2019.
“We’ve been through a lot, me and the fans,” said Aron, in his emotional leaving statement. “We’ve had ups and downs, good times, happy times, and tough times—as you get in football. We’ve had every bit of emotion together. I’ve been here for eight years and both of my sons were born here. I’ll be a Bluebird forever, I know that for sure. I’ll be looking out for the results for years to come, and the first will always be Cardiff. With the boys growing up here, they’re going to know about it too. I’ve got a special bond with this club that I will treasure forever and, looking back on my time here, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
At Al-Arabi, Aron will be reunited with Iceland’s former smiter-in-chief—Heimir “The Dentist” Hallgrímsson. Rumours are being whispered that the two are on a long-term mission to loot the country’s considerable resource reserves. Qatar: be afraid. The smitelords are coming.
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