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Stoke: Potters chase Napoli striker, goalkeeping issues; Spaniard could leave

Stoke City have made an ambitious £16,000,000 move for 25-year-old Italian international Manolo Gabbiadini, according to the Daily Express, although The Potters have been told that to significantly increase their offer. The Napoli striker is also being chased by Everton, West Ham and Southampton with the Italian club hoping to start a bidding war that will see the eventual fee rise beyond the £20,000,000 mark. Mark Hughes is keen to bring in a striker in January with on-loan forward Wilfried Bony set to move to China and having failed to secure Saido Berahino in the summer. The Potters see Gabbiandini as the idea spearhead to lead their attack and are attempting to move quickly to steal a march on their Premier League rivals.

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Meanwhile, Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland has suffered another setback as he continues to recover from the fractured ankle that he suffered on international duty in England’s friendly against Germany back in March. The 23-year-old had been expected to return to competitive action before the turn of the year but was forced to undergo further surgery last week after feeling continuing pain and discomfort. Reports in the regional and national press suggest that Butland will now be out of action for a further three months with the club facing up to the possibility of having been without their number one goalkeeper for almost a full year.

Butland’s latest injury setback has increased the pressure on Mark Hughes to sign a replacement. On-loan Derby County goalkeeper Lee Grant has proven to be a more than capable stand-in and remains Stoke’s preferred choice after a run of impressive performances for The Potters. However, Stoke are refusing to meet Derby’s  £4,000,000 asking price, a hefty fee for a 33-year-old with only six months remaining on his contract, and are starting to look into other options with Grant’s loan dean set to expire in January. Ingolstadt’s Orjan Nyland and Manchester United’s Sam Johnstone have both been linked with a move to The Potteries in recent weeks.

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Stoke have been boosted by the return of Ibrahim Afellay from injury after an eight-month layoff. The Dutch midfielder had been a key part of Mark Hughes’ side last season before suffering knee ligament damage back in April and the former Barcelona player marked his return by completing sixty minutes in an under-23 fixture last week. Afellay could be in contention to be part of the match day squad that travels to Liverpool on December 27 and his return has been described as being “like having a new signing” by Mark Hughes.

Former England international Peter Crouch has revealed this week that he wants to continue playing until he reaches the age of 40. The lanky striker explained, to the Stoke Sentinel, earlier this week that “I’ve never relied on pace, so don’t have to worry about losing it. I was speaking to the manager the other day. H e played until he was 40 and he think that I can too”. Crouch has started just one Premier League game so far this season for The Potters and Sunderland manager David Moyes is keen to sign the striker to boost his side’s battle against relegation. However, the Black Cats boss is rumoured to have no money to spend in the January transfer window and Stoke will be unwilling to entertain any offer of a loan deal.

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Valencia and Las Palmas are just two clubs that have made enquiries about the availability of Stoke attacker Bojan Krkic, according to Sky Sports. The 26-year-old former Barcelona player has become increasingly frustrated by a lack of playing opportunities so far this campaign and this has attracted the attention of a host of clubs across Europe. The diminutive forward has started just four games for Stoke in the Premier League this campaign and although Mark Hughes is unlikely to want to cash in on one of his star players he may be lured away by the promise of first team football.

Philipp Wollscheid could be set for an early return to Stoke after reports of the German defender being involved in a behind-the-scenes bust-up emerged earlier this week. The central defender is currently on-loan at Wolfsberg but has been dropped from the match day squad and forced to train alone after a row with a member their coaching staff. Wolfsberg may now be set to cut Wollscheid’s loan short and are unlikely to take up the option of signing the defender permanently in the summer.

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