In 2016, Stoke are a genuinely attractive destination for foreign footballers to consider. It’s time to accept their position in the world order.
After only so long can the likes of Bojan Krkic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Giannelli Imbula arriving at the same ground that was once home to Kenwyne Jones, Dean Whitehead and Rory Delap be a surprise.
Now, instead of sturdy big men, workhorse midfielders and long-throw specialists, the Potters want elegant number 10s, tricky wingers and athletic centre-circle monsters. This summer is no different.
News that Mark Hughes is tussling with Valencia – yes, six-time La Liga champions Valencia – for Portugal winger Nani, and holding his own, is a sign of the times.
How the former Manchester United man would fit into Stoke’s increasingly glamorous side is a different question though.
After a Euro 2016 tournament in which Nani has played an important role in Portugal reaching the semi-finals, the Sporting Lisbon youth would probably expect a starring role in any club he signs for this summer.
Stoke currently have Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic, Jonathan Walters and Mame Biram Diouf as their wide options in Hughes’ preferred 4-2-3-1 system.
Arnautovic is keeping the club guessing over his future plans – he only has one year left on his current deal – but Stoke expect to keep him and sign Nani.
The Austrian is a regular starter out wide, opposite Shaqiri. Both deserve to keep their places after combining for 14 goals and 12 assists in the Premier League last season.
Seven-strike Bojan was an effective contributor too, so Hughes would have to be inventive if he wants Nani to start alongside his current star trio.
The former Red Devil has been playing upfront for A Selecao in France and is doing so impressively. He could reprise that role in the Potteries in place of Walters, or there could be some role altering that moves Bojan into a false-nine position, with Shaqiri playing behind him.
Whatever the solution, Hughes will have a number of attacking options at his disposal if Nani arrives, which can only be a good thing for Stoke and their ambitions of cracking the European places.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.