Potters aim to sculpt stronger squad after Butland extension
Stoke City will look to build upon their squad this summer after securing goalkeeper Jack Butland on a new four-year deal, which keeps the England Under-21 captain at the Britannia Stadium until 2019.
The Potters, odds-on 1/10 to finish in the top 10, have been impressive again this term under the watchful eye of manager Mark Hughes, who will soon be aiming to bolster his options for next season.
Butland, who joined the club from Birmingham City for £3.5m as a 19-year-old, has also had loan spells at Barnsley and Leeds United, but will now be turning his attention to cementing a more regular first-team position.
England boss Roy Hodgson recently named Joe Hart and Fraser Forster as his two senior stoppers, but stated that Butland was his third choice and would be called upon if injury strikes.
However, in order for the England Under-21 international to stamp his authority down on a club starting place, he will have to dethrone Asmir Begovic between the sticks.
The Bosnian bruiser is regarded as one of the Premier League’s best shot-stoppers, and has been linked with a host of top clubs, including Manchester City and Inter Milan.
Although, if Butland is to make the step up, maybe it’s time for Hughes to put all his faith in the talented youngster, and cash in on his current number one.
Former City boss Hughes has already worked wonders at Stoke, guiding them to ninth position in last season’s league campaign. This was surprisingly Stoke’s highest ever top-flight finish, with Tony Pulis only ever securing a bottom-half place during his tenure.
After tying down Butland on a new long-term deal, Hughes will now look to secure the future of several of his other stars, and potentially boost his squad with even more talented signings, having brought in former Barcelona prodigy Bojan Krkic last year.
Hughes has continued to thrive in the lottery of the transfer market during his managerial career, having been able to attract gifted players from around Europe, with the respect he has earned from his high-profile playing career at the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Bojan was a gem secured by Hughes’ crafty business-like talents and in the market plus an extensive network of contacts, and he will look to continue that keen eye for a deal this summer.
Stoke’s current set-up could use a boost in central attacking players, with Bojan carrying most of the goalscoring burden before his season-ending injury, and Stephen Ireland injecting his side with the majority of creativity.
A potentially perfect signing could be that of Barcelona outcast Ibrahim Afellay, who is enduring a run of lacklustre loan spells, which are drawing a halt to his possibly bright Nou Camp career.
Hughes could rescue Afellay from his slump, as the Dutchman currently plys his trade on loan at Olympiacos, with his contract set to expire this summer, and an option of a further two-year extension seemingly an unflattering offer for the 28-year-old.
In order to make the right acquisitions though, Stoke need to sell, with the likes of Charlie Adam and Wilson Palacios likely to leave, and Victor Moses’ substantial price-tag a probable stumbling block towards any permanent deal.
Defensive incomers are a must too, with Philipp Wollscheid’s loan spell also drawing to an end, and Ryan Shawcross needing a new long-term central partner. Hughes is fond of German centre backs, having also had Robert Huth at the club before, so a Bundesliga swoop could be in his thinking this year.
The Potters looked to have captured a second successive top 10 finish this term, and are 11/10 favourites to overcome Crystal Palace in their next domestic league outing.