Which surprise player could be the missing piece in Stoke’s puzzle?
According to the press, Stoke City (11/1 with Coral for a top six finish) are still aiming to bring a big-name signing to the Britannia Stadium, having seemingly missed out on Inter Milan winger Xherdan Shaqiri.
Mark Hughes appears to be targeting a marquee and adaptable attacking midfielder who can bring flair and threat alongside playmaker Bojan Krkic, and latest reports are linking the Potters with dangerous Dynamo Kiev wideman Andriy Yarmolenko.
As the Potters continue with their pre-season, Hughes told media: “we are working hard trying to get the right quality into the group…I think there’s opportunities still.”
Should the Midlands outfit (evens to finish in the top 10) fail to land the highly-rated attacker, which other continental captures could fit the bill for silky wingplay at Stoke? Here are our picks…
Ibrahim Afellay (Free agent)
Now 29, unattached Dutchman Afellay has been around the block and could be a real steal for whoever takes a chance on him. With Tottenham and Sporting Lisbon tipped to tussle for the versatile former Barcelona and PSV Eindhoven star, Stoke have little to lose by throwing their hat into the ring too.
See Afellay in action:
Denis Cheryshev (Real Madrid)
Hughes seems to enjoy plundering Spain, where he once played, and Madrid-owned menace Cheryshev, apparently up for grabs, could be another bargain signing in the vein of Bojan.
The 24-year-old was most recently linked with Liverpool, for an affordable fee of around £14.5m, but the Reds now appear to have bigger fish in mind and a mooted return to former loan club Villarreal also seems to have stalled.
Should speedy left-footer Cheryshev find himself left on the shelf then, Stoke should head the queue for his services to challenge inconsistent Marko Arnautovic.
Luciano Narsingh (PSV Eindhoven)
It looks as though a new generation of Dutch talents could shake-up the Premier League, and Stoke will not want to miss a trick by overlooking Narsingh, who notched six strikes and 10 assists for Eredivise champions PSV last term.
At 24 he could be tempted to England’s top tier and should be in the Potters’ price-range, yet the Eindhoven outfit may prove stubborn after losing Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Diego Perotti (Genoa)
Premier League new boys Watford may have so far failed to convince guileful and two-footed talent Perotti to ditch the Griffin, yet the Argentine may see more appeal in Stoke’s project if offered, considering their relative stability in the Premier League.
Should the Potters manage to procure him, with Genoa previously accepting the Hornets’ £7m offer, Hughes would be snaring another potential coup, able to play on either flank.
Pablo Sarabia (Getafe)
Spanish trickster Sarabia is another Real Castilla graduate, and has been a consistent orchestrator of Getafe’s offence since joining the Madrid rivals in 2011.
It is still hard to believe that the skillful midfielder is only 23, and perhaps the Potters will not wish to take a punt on another youngster, yet could rue overlooking his potential should Watford, rumoured to be eyeing the attacking midfielder, step in.
Take a peek at Sarabia’s talent:
Adama Traore (Barcelona)
Hughes looks set to go back to ex-club Barca for summer buys once again, though it would be surprising if La Masia wing magician Traore, who racked up 14 assists for Barcelona B last term, was Stoke’s top target for the summer.
Yet, the Midlands club appear to have a renewed focus on developing youth, so this exciting 19-year-old could find himself turning out for the Potters this coming season, following in the footsteps of former Barca prodigies Bojan and Marc Muniesa.