Craig Bellamy's decision to return "home" to Cardiff City has been hailed as a throwback to the days when big-name players would step down a division to revive the fortunes of a provincial club. Memories of Dave Mackay being persuaded to join Second Division Derby County by Brian Clough in 1968 or Kevin Keegan joining Newcastle United in 1982 have been evoked.
The effect at Cardiff has been immediate. The club shop has done such a roaring trade in No.9 and "Bellamy" shirts that they ran out of both the aforesaid number and the letter "y". Bookies have slashed odds of Cardiff returning to English football's top division for the first time since 1962 as Bellamy himself must accept a level of adulation that has been markedly lacking in his career so far.
Yet talk of footballing fairytales can be countered by the strands of the Bellamy affair that make this very much a modern football story. Item 1 is Bellamy's status as a supposed victim of the 25-man rule, though it is perhaps more pertinent that Roberto Mancini would want rid of the man once called the "gobbiest" player in the game by Sir Bobby Robson whatever rules were in place. That said, talk of "restraint of trade", and even a revival of l'affaire Jean-Marc Bosman began to abound.
Second on the list is Bellamy's status as an unwanted bauble of a previous Manchester City spending spree. The options for moving him on from the club have been complicated by a huge transfer fee and wages reported to be around Â£90,000 a week. This makes him unattractive as a straight purchase for any potential suitors, and thus left only a loan as a possibility.
Manchester City's current policy of recruitment and removal must come next. Their transfer dealings have often borne the look of familarity in that their purchases have often come at the expense of their supposed rivals. The Abu Dhabi connection began its splurge with an attempted hijack of Dimitar Berbatov's move to Manchester United and then the snatching of Robinho from Chelsea's grasp. Then came the extended chases for the likes of Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry and, latterly, James Milner. It is no coincidence that such purchases lessen the strength of their immediate peers, namely the teams who aspire to bridge the gap to the top four.
With such a policy in mind, then there would be no way that he would be loaned to the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, and other information reports that other Premier League clubs offered to pay significant portions of his wages only to be told that no deal could be done; Bellamy would not be allowed to be in the same sphere as City.
Bellamy chose Wales over Scotland in turning down Celtic, where he spent half-a-season in 2005, and family reasons have been cited. This human aspect was followed by Bellamy confirming that his wages will still equal his previous haul and that his foundation in Sierra Leone, which has received hundreds of thousands of pounds to help needy children, will still receive his money from his rather inappropriately labelled "image rights". Previously, the Craig Bellamy Foundation had only made the news when its proprietor managed to get into a brawl while on charity business in West Africa but its continuing work paints a far less vulgar picture of Bellamy than his usual public face.
Despite the Welshman's public yearning for the "green, green grass of home", more controversy surrounds his chosen destination. Cardiff City are a club who have spent the last couple of years staving off winding-up orders from the taxman while also in litigation with shadowy financiers Langston to the tune of Â£31 million. Meanwhile, a transfer embargo has only just been lifted. The FA Cup final of 2008, in which Cardiff were beaten by Portsmouth, now looks like an outing for what Arsene Wenger once called "money doping", considering the courtroom exploits of both clubs in the years since.
Such matters are not yet in the past for Cardiff, judging by Motherwell's angry demands for Cardiff to pay up the Â£175,000 they say they are still owed for Paul Quinn. The SPL club have lambasted Cardiff for their lack of co-operation and went public as soon as the Bellamy loan became public knowledge. Reports of Cardiff's contribution to Bellamy's salary have swung from as much as Â£35,000 per week to as little as Â£6,000. In between those figures lies an amount commensurate to Quinn's total cost of Â£300,000 over the duration of Bellamy's loan.
When Keegan signed for Newcastle, he was given a fanfare of "we're in heaven, we've got Kevin" by the club's secretary. It was a time of fantasy on Tyneside and an ailing town's spirits were lifted. The same may yet be true in Wales' capital, though Bellamy's local hero act is already steeped in too many of the odious machinations of modern football.