Whether you're in the Erol Bulut 'in' or 'out' camp, what cannot be argued is that Cardiff City are a better team this year than they have been for the last two seasons.

Given they came into this campaign off the back of some poor, restricted transfer windows, seeing them head into the final few games of the season in a comfortable, mid-table position represents progress.

Whether that progress is enough for Vincent Tan to pull the trigger on a new deal for his manager still, frustratingly for many, remains to be seen. Sign up to our Cardiff City newsletter here.

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But just how to we calculate success this season? Surely, even in Tan's wildest dreams, he couldn't have expected this squad to get promoted out of the Championship this season. Given the strength of the league this year and the years of cut-price transfer deals and relegation battles which preceded it.

The general consensus is that a top-half or, at a push, top-10 finish would represent meaningful progress for the club and a positive step in the right direction. A foundation on which to build next season.

Cardiff currently sit in 11th place with four games to go and look likely to finish somewhere around that ball park, you would suspect. But when compared to the relative spending power of other teams, Bulut can be proud of the job they have done.

Cardiff have had to be creative in order to pump the squad with more talent. A good free pick-up in Dimitrios Goutas, displaying patience in waiting for Manolis Siopis ostensibly buy himself out of his own Trabzonspor contract, curating and tabling a complex deal to Aaron Ramsey, forking out large portions of players' wages on loan deals to compensate for transfer bans were all part of it.

So, looking solely at transfer fees which have been paid by rival clubs can arguably be a little reductive, but just entertain it for a second, because it's a useful barometer in terms of seeing just how well Cardiff have done compared to others around them.

Looking just at the make-up of Cardiff's squad on "purchase value" alone — in other words, how much money was spent on transfer fees to construct the playing squad — makes for pretty interesting reading. Only the three promoted clubs from League One last season — Sheffield Wednesday, QPR and Rotherham — spent more than Cardiff's £2.81m, according to Transfermarkt.

Contrast that with the leagues big boys — Leicester City £199.76m, Southampton £137.66m, Leeds United £120.94m, Norwich City £55.76m — and Cardiff pale in comparison.

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So, just how efficient have Cardiff been? That's where it gets interesting. Based on transfer fees alone, the Bluebirds are punching well above their weight with regards to points and victories per pounds spent.

At time of writing, Cardiff have 59 points. Only QPR and Plymouth have a better pounds spent-per-point ratio than Cardiff (£48,000). And the number which will interest Tan, the metric which sees Cardiff top of the table, is cost per win.

According to Transfermarkt, Cardiff's transfer cost for each of their 18 wins this season is the best in the division, coming in at £156,000. No team has paid less, on transfer fees, per victory.

Again, it must be stressed that it can be argued that this can be seen as reductive and does not tell the whole story. But one imagines it will get Cardiff fans' minds whirring with one question: Will more investment equal a better chance of promotion?

Cardiff are certainly punching above their weight at the moment, as the above metrics show, but invariably, the teams who spend the most, get promoted out of this division. With no transfer ban and more profit and sustainability headroom in the summer than we saw in January, we understand, could extra cash this summer make the difference? Cardiff are crying out for a new striker and more wing options, positions which cost big money. It might make all the difference.

Cost-per-victory table in full (via Transfermarkt)

Club Purchase value Points Costs per point Goals Costs per goal Wins Costs per victory
Cardiff City Cardiff €3.29m 59 €56k 47 €70k 18 €183k
Queens Park Rangers QPR €2.20m 47 €47k 40 €55k 12 €183k
Sheffield Wednesday Sheff Wed €2.47m 43 €57k 35 €71k 12 €206k
Plymouth Argyle Plymouth €2.48m 45 €55k 57 €43k 11 €225k
Ipswich Town Ipswich €11.00m 88 €125k 84 €131k 26 €423k
Rotherham United Rotherham €1.70m 23 €74k 32 €53k 4 €425k
Preston North End Preston €10.86m 63 €172k 56 €194k 18 €603k
Huddersfield Town Huddersfield €7.04m 43 €164k 46 €153k 9 €782k
Bristol City Bristol City €13.26m 57 €233k 49 €271k 16 €829k
Hull City Hull City €15.49m 62 €250k 59 €262k 17 €911k
Sunderland AFC Sunderland €15.43m 53 €291k 51 €303k 15 €1.03m
Millwall FC Millwall €13.54m 47 €288k 39 €347k 12 €1.13m
Blackburn Rovers Blackburn €13.73m 46 €298k 56 €245k 12 €1.14m
Swansea City Swansea €20.58m 50 €412k 52 €396k 13 €1.58m
Coventry City Coventry €33.35m 63 €529k 66 €505k 17 €1.96m
West Bromwich Albion West Brom €39.77m 72 €552k 66 €603k 20 €1.99m
Stoke City Stoke City €24.44m 46 €531k 40 €611k 12 €2.04m
Birmingham City Birmingham €24.45m 42 €582k 45 €543k 11 €2.22m
Middlesbrough FC Middlesbrough €40.99m 62 €661k 60 €683k 18 €2.28m
Watford FC Watford €31.12m 52 €598k 57 €546k 12 €2.59m
Norwich City Norwich €65.35m 68 €961k 75 €871k 20 €3.27m
Leeds United Leeds €141.75m 87 €1.63m 76 €1.87m 26 €5.45m
Southampton FC Southampton €161.35m 78 €2.07m 78 €2.07m 23 €7.02m
Leicester City Leicester €234.14m 88 €2.66m 79 €2.96m 28 €8.36m