Stoke City boss Gary Rowett has opened the door for Robert Huth to return to the club on a permanent basis as the central defender continues to train with the first team squad as he attempts to regain his fitness.
The German was released by Leicester City at the end of last season following a hugely successful three-year stint at the King Power Stadium which included their historic Premier League title triumph in 2016.
Subsequently, he approached Stoke at the start of the summer and has been allowed to train with Rowett’s squad whilst he looks for a new club.
Huth remains a popular figure at the Bet365 Stadium having made over 150 appearances for The Potters over the period of half-a-decade following a £5 million transfer from Middlesbrough in 2009.
The 33-year-old formed a dominant central defensive partnership with Ryan Shawcross that provided the solid foundation on which the club’s modern success was built.
The notion of Huth re-signing for Stoke is a romantic concept, one that many Stoke supporters will be keen to see, and Rowett told the Stoke Sentinel that the door is still open for the German defender.
“He’s coming to train. We’ll see how it is for both parties and we’ll assess it as we go along … We’ll try to help him and that’s where we are at the moment. I don’t think there’s any real rush to make a decision.”
“There’s no strings attached for either party but come in and train, we’ll get you involved – we’re a little bit short in terms of numbers in that area anyway.”
Stoke are currently short of central defensive options following the departures of Kevin Wimmer (on loan to Hannover 96), Marc Muniesa (who has signed for Girona) and Kurt Zouma (who returned to Chelsea following the conclusion of his loan spell) as the club adapts to life outside the Premier League.
With that in mind, Huth’s availability as a free agent and his pre-existing standing within the club makes him an attractive option as Rowett continues to re-mould his squad in preparation for the new season. He has already featured heavily in Stoke’s early pre-season activities and fixtures whilst he is also likely to be joining the club on their tour of Germany.
However, Rowett is right to be cautious about signing the German defender.
Huth did not make a single appearance for Leicester last season as he struggled with a string of injuries and fell considerably down the pecking order at the King Power Stadium whilst, at 33 years of age, he is stepping into the twilight of his career.
Could he realistically adapt to the physical demands of the Championship where there is a requirement to play two matches most weeks as part of a demanding fixture schedule?
Furthermore, Stoke should be looking to the future rather than attempting to recreate previous glories.
Whilst Huth remains a legend in the eyes of supporters he would only provide a short-term solution and will undoubtedly return as a very different player than the one that last played at the Bet365 Stadium in 2015.
Rowett is quite rightly looking to bring in a new generation of young, fresh and hungry talent which will be led by new signing Oghenekaro Etebo, Nigeria’s 21-year-old World Cup star. Does Huth fit within those parameters? Probably not.
Whilst Huth’s return may be a somewhat romantic notion that would certain provide a short-term solution to the club’s lack of defensive cover, on a practical level which looks at the long-term in would leave much to be desired.
Ultimately, much may depend, as it so often does in football, on money.
Stoke have already made significant moves in the transfer market following the arrivals of Etebo and Benik Afobe whilst they have been linked with a string of other big-money signings.
Without the safety net of Premier League TV revenue the signing of Huth on a free transfer could allow Rowett to focus his investment on strengthening other areas of the team.
So the door is certainly open for Huth to return on a permanent basis, although Rowett will need to decide whether his focus is on the short-term or long-term future of the club.