Stoke seeking a new level with aspirational transfer targets
In previous seasons at the Britannia Stadium, Stoke City have built a reputation for bullying their Premier League rivals with brute force and astute aerial ability, which was driven vigorously into the majority of Potters players by past management.
However, with former believer in that tactical approach Tony Pulis having departed the club in 2013, current boss Mark Hughes has instilled a new sense of style and swagger to Stoke’s top-flight contributions, guiding them to their highest ever Premier League finish of eighth this term.
Hughes’ welcomed new alternative application to his side’s performances on the pitch, which was highlighted perfectly on the final day of the season, when Stoke rampantly swept aside Liverpool 6-1 to spoil Steven Gerrard’s last ever appearance in red.
The Potters comprehensively outgunned Brendan Rodgers’ men, inflicting the Reds with their heaviest defeat since 1963, showing Hughes has built a talented platform on which he can build for next season, as they aim to push even further up the top tier table (16/1 with Coral to be relegated).
As Hughes continues his attempts to construct a Potters dynasty, the club are upping their impressive transfer market business, with chief executive Tony Scholes recently stating Stoke are in search of a new level of players to represent the Staffordshire outfit.
“The truth is that when you improve as a club – and there is no question we have improved a lot over the years – you raise the bar in the players you are going for,” Scholes declared.
“The kind of players you target are aspirational players, players who are about pushing the boundary even more, so you are in competition with good clubs.
“We don’t want to be bringing in players who have no other choices. Perhaps barring the top three, four or half-dozen clubs in Europe, we are now in the market for that next level of player.”
Having gained a strong reputation across Europe as a player, featuring for Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Barcelona, Welshman Hughes is a huge factor in Stoke’s new-found ability to attract star names, with previously promising Nou Camp forward Bojan Krkic just the start of a potential new era at Britannia, as he arrived last summer.
The Spaniard, who came through Barca’s globally high-regarded youth system La Masia, enjoyed a superb debut campaign before sustaining a season-ending injury, but the 24-year-old is expected to return to full fitness before next term kicks off.
As Stoke’s performances on the field continue to significantly banish any lasting memories of their previously bullish outlook, talented transfer targets are being linked heavily. This summer the club could excitingly see the arrival of Yevhen Konoplyanka, Sporting Lisbon right back Cedric Soares or even Chelsea’s Victor Moses, who spent last season on loan with the club.
In recent seasons, even being linked with such a crop of promising players was unthinkable, but under the guidance of Hughes, Stoke are gaining momentum with each passing campaign and will surely be realistically aiming for a European position next term (66/1 for top four finish).