The Stoke City transfer recruitment team were on the receiving end of a deluge of criticism from the club’s supporters following their relegation to the Championship at the end of last season.
Indeed, it is easy to see why.
Stoke’s decline, which ultimately ended in their decade long stay in the top flight coming to an abrupt end, can be traced back over the previous two years and has been underpinned to consistent and costly errors in the transfer market.
A quick look at two of the club’s most recent high-profile signings clearly demonstrates that fact.
In January 2017 The Potters signed West Bromwich Albion striker Saido Berahino in an attempt to solve the team’s lack of goals and paid £12 million to bring the striker to the Bet365 Stadium.
However, he has yet to score for the club, a goal draught that can be traced back over two years now, and he has spent much of his time playing for the under-23 team after being publicly criticised for his poor levels of fitness.
Last summer Stoke paid £18 million for Tottenham Hotspur defender Kevin Wimmer, despite not appearing to have any shortage of central defensive options.
The Austrian never look fit, sharp or technically adequate to be a regular starter in the Premier League and he was ultimately exiled from the first team after a strong of poor performances before being shipped out on loan to Hannover 96.
And, that is before you start to talk about Stoke’s record signing Giannelli Imbula.
Nigeria’s World Cup Star – Oghenekaro Etebo
However, despite the club’s recent failings in the transfer market it appears that the recruitment team have begun to redeem themselves following the arrival of Oghenekaro Etebo.
The signing of the 22-year-old came as something of a surprise to supporters.
Stoke had not been linked with a move for the dynamic central midfielder and he certainly was not a high-profile name having had spells with diminutive clubs in Portugal and Spain.
Supporters have had an opportunity to get an early view of their new signing in action at the World Cup where he has been a central figure in the Nigerian squad – and it is safe to say that they are excited by what they have seen.
Etebo has started all three of Nigeria’s group games in Russia and he has produced a string of hugely impressive performances.
This culminated on Tuesday evening when he was a star performer for the Super Eagles despite suffering a narrow defeat at the hands of a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina.
The 22-year-old looks the complete package.
Physically, he looks immaculate. He is dynamic, powerful and has an abundance of pace that allows him to cover the entirety of the pitch with relative ease, much in the same way that N’golo Kante does for Chelsea.
His energy and enthusiasm are clear for all to see and will be perfectly suited to the high-intensity world of Championship football.
Etebo is equally as impressive technically. The central midfielder always seems available to receive the ball and whenever he is in possession he looks to play forward with short, simple passes that allows his team to move up the pitch.
He has also been the primary set piece taker for Nigeria during the World Cup and he certainly has the ability to produce dangerous deliveries from dead ball situations.
Supporters will also have been impressed be the 22-year-old’s attitude and application. Etebo is aggressive, tenacious and is certainly not afraid to apply himself with ruthless efficiency when undertaking his defensive duties.
In short, if Etebo’s performances at the World Cup are anything to go by, Stoke have one hell of a player on their hands.
The £6.35 million they paid Feirense to secure his services looks like a bargain and it is safe to say that his price tag would have probably doubled had Stoke waited until later in the summer to confirm the deal.
Furthermore, had he not signed prior to the tournament, then it is more than likely that Etebo would have attracted the interest of top-flight clubs across Europe following his displays in Russia.
One thing is for certain – Etebo will be a force to reckoned with in the Championship this season.