One For The Money: Part 2 – Central Midfielders
Mark Hughes and Stoke signed Giannelli Imbula for £18m, but rather than this just being a one-off big money purchase, it could be the sign of things to come, fitting into the growing spending trend in the Premier League. We do have good cover in this position already, with lots of different options too. However: the club may look to recruit some long term cover and competition for Glenn Whelan; plus bearing in mind that some of the current players may look to be getting more game time at a different club this Summer and, especially with the majority of our central players (besides Imbula and Bojan) creeping up towards 30 years of age, it might be nice to see another young, up and coming talent in the Stoke midfield.
One (For the Money): Axel Witsel
Witsel is a 27 year old Belgian from Zenit St. Petersburg. He has played 36 times for his club this season and has five goals and five assists. He also has 60 caps for his country. Witsel is known for his good passing ability and general forward play as well as being able to mix in his physicality to help out his defence. Stoke moved for Witsel in January, offering around £12m for his services, but were unsuccessful. It seems the player might want to move onto a bigger club should he leave Russia, however an expiring contract and a lack of bids from other teams might force Zenit’s hand to sell. One thing to bear in mind is that Witsel is already entering the prime stages of his career and, even though not as experienced as others currently in the Stoke squad, Stoke may look for a younger face.
Contract Expiry: Jul 2017. Market Value: £21m. Expected Fee: £12-16m
Two (For the Show): Sergi Roberto
The man who seems to be most destined for a Stoke shirt for years but no solid public transfer activity has ever materialised. For those of you who are unaware: Roberto is a 24 year old born and bred Barcelona midfielder who has played 39 times for Barcelona this season, scoring one goal and providing with five assists. Roberto is a player who has, again, grown through the ranks at Barcelona and seems to be breaking into the first team, albeit in various positions such as fullback and right midfield in addition to his preferred central midfield role. Sergi’s offensive and passing qualities are superb and have been since he emerged as one of the academy’s best graduates in recent years. Although at 24, he is at a cross-roads in his career path: does he stick with his boyhood club and hope he keeps his role in the team, or does he look for a new challenge in a new league where he know he will be played and allowed to fully develop? His relationship with current Stokies and ex-teammates Bojan and Marc Muniesa is well documented and that could be enough, along with the promise of first-team football, to complete the plethora of Amigos in the Potteries.
Contract Expiry: Jul 2019. Market Value: £15m. Expected Fee: £12-17m
Three (To get Ready): Lewis Cook
Cook is an 19 year old Englishman who plays for Leeds United in the Championship. He has played 45 times this season, scoring two goals and earning three assists. Cook has been voted the Championship’s Young Player of the Season and has been making waves across English football, attracting big names such as Liverpool, Manchester United and Stoke. Although more of a rough diamond than other targets, Cook has proved his mental strength with good workrate and defensive contribution mixed with his forward ability. Leeds sound like they do not want to sell their wonderkid, but with the massive amount of revenue from the new TV deal, money may talk to both club and player.
Contract Expiry: Jul 2017. Market Value: £1.13m. Expected Fee: £8-10m
Four (To Go): Stephen Ireland
Ireland was rescued from the depths of Aston Villa during the first transfer window overwatched by Hughes for Stoke and was a big player during his and Hughes’ debut season, filling in at the No 10 role. However since the signings of Bojan and Afellay, not to mention a couple of injuries along the way, Ireland has found game time harder to come by in recent seasons. Hughes has stated time and time again that Ireland remains an important member of the squad and has vowed to give him game time; but, certainly this season, that has not materialised for him. Ireland may be a lot happier at Stoke than the way he’s been treated at previous clubs Manchester City and Villa, but he may want to take control of his own career and not become one of the Premier League’s forgotten men.
Contract Expiry: Jul 2017. Market Value £1.13m. Expected Fee: £2-4m
For anyone that doesn’t get the song reference: https://open.spotify.com/track/0XRYEbNGUw0ojKQ352wyOY
Written by Ben Rowley
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