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Stoke City round-up: Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan could depart; five first-team contracts set to expire; Harry Souttar speaks out

Stoke City

Stoke City round-up: Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan could depart; five first-team contracts set to expire; Harry Souttar speaks out

The Stoke Sentinel are reporting that Stoke City are willing to listen to offers for Xherdan Shaqiri in the summer after an unimpressive second season in North Staffordshire.

The Swiss superstar has struggled to live up to the high-profile reputation that he earned whilst plying his trade on the continent and has failed to meet the high expectations of many pundits and supporters since arriving in The Potteries in 2015. His second season in English football has been disrupted by continuing fitness issues and it now looks as if Stoke may be willing to cash in on their winger with a number of European clubs currently monitoring the situation.

Shaqiri arrived at the Bet365 Stadium in the summer of 2015 in a deal worth £12,000,000 from Inter Milan. His arrival was seen as a marquee signing for The Potters and supporters were relishing the prospect of seeing the diminutive winger producing sparkling performances alongside Marko Arnautovic in the Stoke attack.

However, the 25-year-old has struggled to find his feet in the Premier League with injuries and inconsistency plaguing his time in England and this is exemplified by his experiences throughout the current campaign. Shaqiri started the season in fine form with his stunning free kick against Middlesbrough earning The Potters a point on the opening day of the season, but he then missed the next six games due to injury. Against Hull City, in October, he produced an outstanding performance which included two spectacular long-range goals in what many perceive to be his best display in a Stoke City shirt.

However, Shaqiri has failed to finish any of the last seven games in which he has started and has also been absent from their last seven fixtures due to a calf injury. Despite these fitness concerns the winger is expected to start when Switzerland host Latvia in a World Cup qualifier.

The Stoke Sentinel suggest that Mark Hughes is not actively looking to sell the ‘Alpine Messi’ but is aware of continuing interest from a host of European clubs. Stoke would be willing to listen to offers in the region of £12,000,000 as they look to recoup the money they paid Inter Milan two years ago but Shaqiri’s departure, half way through a five-year contract, would be seen as a huge anti-climax.

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Reports in the Turkish media are suggesting that Stoke City forward Bojan Krkic will be a target for Fenerbahce this summer.

The Spaniard has fallen out of favour at the Bet365 Stadium under Mark Hughes despite signing a new long-term contract extension less than twelve months ago. The 26-year-old is currently on loan until the end of the season with Bundesliga side Mainz 05 after making the temporary switch during the January transfer window with the first team playing opportunities being severely restricted in North Staffordshire. However, Bojan has struggled to make an impact in German football and has yet to complete a full game for his current club.

Stoke City have yet to make an official comment on the future of Bojan although Mark Hughes has previously insisted that the Spaniard remains a part of his long-term plans. Despite this, it looks increasingly likely that the player will be allowed to depart the Bet365 Stadium in the summer should The Potters receive an appropriate offer.

The Turkish media are suggesting that Bojan has little interest in extending his stay in Germany, with Mainz struggling in the bottom half of the Bundesliga, and that a move to Fenerbahce would interest the 26-year-old.

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The Stoke Sentinel are reporting that Mark Hughes is mulling over the long-term futures of a number of senior players with five members of the current first-team squad set to be out of contract in the summer.

 

The contracts of Glen Johnson, Phil Bardsley, Charlie Adam, Shay Given and Stephen Ireland will all expire at the end of the season and formal negotiations have yet to take place between any of the players and the club.

Mark Hughes has made it clear that he is looking to reduce the average age of his Stoke City squad which leaves question marks over the futures of all five of the aforementioned players. This becomes especially pertinent considering Peter Crouch (aged 36), Glenn Whelan (33) and Jonathan Walters (33) have all recently extended their current deals.

Shay Given (who turns 41 next month) is expected to announce his retirement from playing football in the summer but is set to depart the Bet365 Stadium after the arrival of Lee Grant and the return to fitness of Jack Butland. Meanwhile, Stephen Ireland, who is currently recovering from a broken leg sustained almost one year ago, will not be offered a new deal although the club are likely to continue to support his rehabilitation during the close-season.

Phil Bardsley, Glen Johnson, and Charlie Adam have all featured on a relatively regular basis for The Potters this season and the Stoke Sentinel indicate that all three have approached the club regarding their long-term futures. However, Mark Hughes has yet to instigate formal negotiations at this stage which will leave all three sweating as the current campaign comes to its conclusion.

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Scotland starlet Harry Souttar has insisted that he has no regrets about swapping first team football with Dundee United for a shot at Premier League fame with Stoke City – despite having to miss six months due to administrative restrictions.

The highly rated central defender signed for The Potters last summer but has been forced to sit out the last six months due to a red-tape wrangle which delayed his registration. However, the 18-year-old has made the most of his time away from match play, training two times a day, and believes that his decision to swap first team football in Scotland for under-23 competition at Stoke is being vindicated. Speaking to the Scottish SunSouttar explains:

“It’s been enjoyable. Even though I didn’t play for the first six months, I wasn’t resting … I trained twice a day to keep my fitness levels up. The delay was massively frustrating for me at the time because I was buzzing when I got the move and couldn’t wait to get playing.”

The 6 foot 7-inch tall defender was criticised by some football experts north of the border for trading first team action at Dundee United for a shot at Premier League fame. However, Souttar believes that the higher quality of personnel and training in North Staffordshire has helped him to develop:

“When I train with the first team it’s a different level. I’m much fitter now and I feel as though I’ve come on leaps and bounds. After training I’ll sometimes do some extra work with Ryan Shawcross on my touch and passing. I’m just buzzing to be there every day.”

Souttar also revealed that fellow Scotsman Charlie Adam has taken him under his wing since his arrival in Stoke and has helped the 18-year-old to settle into life in England.

“Before I got the move Charlie contacted me to ask if I needed anything. He gave me his number. Then when I came down he spoke to my parents to make sure that everything was ok. I know if I need anything Charlie’s there”.

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