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Stoke round-up: Mark Hughes’ future; John Terry linked; Marko Arnautovic comments on Everton interest

Martyn Cooke

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The Telegraph have revealed that Stoke City manager Mark Hughes is not in danger of losing his job, despite increasing pressure from a section of the club’s support, and is planning a summer overhaul of his playing squad with a number of senior players facing an uncertain future.

Hughes has guided The Potters to three consecutive top-half finishes in the Premier League since replacing Tony Pulis in the summer of 2013, a feat that the North Staffordshire club last achieved over eighty years ago.

However, the Welshman has been heavily criticised by an increasing number of supporters, who believe that the team has regressed during the last eighteen months, with money also being wasted in the transfer market. There have been some calls for the manager to be replaced at the end of what has been a disappointing campaign that will most likely see Stoke finish in the bottom half of the table.

But the Telegraph indicate that Hughes’ position is not under threat and that the club’s hierarchy will support him during the summer with a substantial shake-up of the first team squad planned.

Jonathan Walters is rumoured to be among a number of senior players who face an uncertain future and the 33-year-old, who is the club’s all-time leading goal scorer in the Premier League, could be set to depart the Bet365 Stadium, with Newcastle United and Burnley both showing an interest. Charlie Adam and Glenn Whelan are two other figures that are likely to be shown the exit door at the end of the season.

Hughes has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks but has been promised that he will have funds to spend in the summer by the Stoke board. The Welshman will target a central defender, left back and central midfielder as he looks to revamp his squad.

The Daily Mail are reporting that Stoke City are the early front runners in the race to sign former Chelsea and England captain John Terry in the summer.

The 36-year-old central defender has made in excess of 800 appearances at club and international level since making his first team debut in 1998, lifting the Premier League four times and having also won the Champions League and Europa League.

However, Terry’s first team involvement at Chelsea has been limited following the arrival of Antonio Conte and he has been told that he is surplus to requirements and will not be offered a new contract when his current deal expires at the end of the campaign.

The Daily Mail are suggesting that Terry has told friends that he still feels that he is physically good enough to continue playing in the English top flight for another three years and beyond.

His experience, playing record and availability will make the central defender one of the most in demand free agents over the summer and Stoke City are believed to have emerged as one of the clubs showing a genuine interest in securing his signature.

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Marko Arnautovic has revealed that he turned down the opportunity to sign for Everton in the summer and chose to sign a new contract with Stoke City because Mark Hughes had “rescued” him from Germany.

The 28-year-old Austrian winger has become a favourite amongst the supporters at the Bet365 Stadium since signing from Bundesliga side Werder Bremen in the summer of 2013.

However, his performances have attracted the interest of a number of European clubs over the last three years and Arnautovic, as reported by the Liverpool Echo, explained how he turned down interest from Everton so that he could pledge his long-term future to Stoke City:

“Ronald Koeman tried to persuade me to move to Everton. Romelu Lukaku also phoned me to ask if I would join them, and I found that a great honour. But nonetheless I rang Mark Hughes and told him: ‘Get the paperwork ready – I’ll extend my stay at Stoke’”.

The charismatic Austrian proceeded to agree a new lucrative contract with The Potters worth around £80,000 per week, making him the club’s highest earner. Disclosing the thinking behind the decision Arnautovic revealed:

“[Stoke] had put a lot of faith in me and rescued me from Germany. Werder Bremen was a bad place for me and I had to leave them. Stoke took me on and my career took off with them. I thought to myself – it’s a place where everything suits me, so why not stay put?”

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Finally, Stoke City youngster Oliver Shenton believes that he will be returning to the Bet365 Stadium in the summer a “better player” having enjoyed a successful four month loan-spell with Wrexham.

The 19-year-old midfielder is highly rated in North Staffordshire having recently signed a new long-term contract that will see him remain with The Potters until 2020.

However, in January, Shenton joined Wrexham on loan for the remainder of the season as he went in search of regular game time and the youngster believes that his experience with The Dragons has helped him to develop and improve.

Speaking to the Daily Post, Shenton explained: “I’ve really enjoyed it here at Wrexham … it has been good for me. It has been a challenge to work me up to men’s football … I feel like I have learnt a lot from the experienced pros here. I think I have learnt a lot. I am going to go back to Stoke a better player.”

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Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

Arsenal

Arsenal and Chelsea receive huge boost in pursuit of Aleksandr Golovin

The London rivals have been given an edge over Juventus in the pursuit it seems.

Jamie Watts

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Photo: Getty Images

London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have recieved a huge boost in their pursuit of Russian maestro Aleksandr Golovin, after the play-maker’s father revealed he is currently learning English, in quotes via Russian outlet Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Italian giants Juventus are said to be courting the CSKA Moscow midfielder closely, with some reports even claiming a deal had been agreed between the two clubs (Calciomercato). However, the new revelation from the player’s father suggests the move is anything but a formality, and Chelsea and Arsenal remain in the race.

“He [Golovin] now has one thing on his mind: the Russian team. But if such proposals are made, I believe that he will go abroad, play abroad,” the Russian international’s father claimed.

“Their football is of a different level, there is nowhere to hide. Speeds are different. I’m sure my son will be able to play at a new level. It will be more difficult with a foreign language. But I know that he has already started learning English.”

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Arsenal have no plans of slowing down in the transfer window after agreeing a deal for 34-year-old Stephan Lichtsteiner and closing in on Lucas Torreira. SportBILD claims that a deal for Bernd Leno is also close to being completed, as personal terms have been agreed. And now it would appear Unai Emery is keen on continuing the pursuit for Golovin.

However, they will face stern competition from west London, as Chelsea have expressed an interest in signing the 22-year-old, with the Express claiming that the club are looking to quickly encore the managerial appointment of Maurizio Sarri with the Italian’s long-spanning target.

CSKA are said to want £22 million before they would be willing to do business for a player they regard as one of the most influential in their squad, while they also assert that a sell-on clause will be part of any deal, to ensure they dont miss out should the player’s market value drastically increase in the future, according to The Sun.

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Chelsea

Willian could hold key to Tottenham landing Anthony Martial

If Manchester United land the Brazilian it would undoubtedly improve Tottenham’s chances.

Jamie Watts

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Manchester United are reportedly preparing a £60 million bid to bring Chelsea winger Willian to Old Trafford this summer, according to reports from the Daily Mail, with manager Jose Mourinho having been linked with an approach for his former star for some time.

Chelsea were unwilling to sell at that time, but it is possible that Willian could be interested in a new challenge after apparently growing frustrated with life at Stamford Bridge, according to recent reports from Sky Sports. He managed a combined 25 goals and assists in 55 appearances in 2017/18, but only 20 of his 37 Premier League outings actually came as a starter.

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Tottenham meanwhile, have become frustrated at United’s assertion that Anthony Martial will not be sold this summer (Sky Sports), after Mauricio Pochettino made the Frenchman his priority target last month (the Sun), as he looks to bolster the supply line to Harry Kane next term.

However, Martial’s revelation that he wants to leave the club could be vital for Spurs, as Mourinho has previously stated that he would never stop a player from moving if they really want the move and the money is right. And he’s backed up his words, selling two-time Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata to his current club in 2014.

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The Red Devils are currently stacked in terms of depth for the left wing, with Marcus Rashford struggling to start games over January signing Alexis Sanchez, but wide-right is somewhat scarce and Willian would undoubtedly improve United’s balance for the better.

Although the manager would prefer the Frenchman went abroad, if he asked for the move to north London, Willian’s transfer to United would undoubtedly improve Pochettino’s chances of securing his key man. United will also be buoyed by their recent business with the west Londoners, having surprisingly secured the signing of Nemanja Matic from Stamford Bridge last summer.

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Atletico Madrid

Rafa Benitez should plot Fernando Torres reunion at Newcastle United

Rafa Benitez should plot a reunion with his former superstar.

Jamie Watts

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Newcastle United are reportedly in the market for new forwards this summer, with Rafa Benitez identifying the Magpies’ attacking output as a key weakness last term, despite their impressive 10th place finish.

The Spaniard is calling for the club to back him in pursuit of a “10 to 15 goals a season” striker this summer, with the likes of Salomon Rondon (Northern Echo) and Bas Dost (the Sun) circulating around the Newcastle rumour mill.

However, both would likely break the Magpies current club-record of £16 million – for Michael Owen from Real Madrid in 2005 – and perhaps Benitez would be better served going for a former favourite.

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Fernando Torres is a free-agent having left Atletico Madrid, following last month’s Europa League triumph and Newcastle should offer the 34-year-old a route back to England’s top flight this summer.

Under Benitez’s tutelage at Liverpool, Torres was widely recognised as one of the most formidable forwards in world football, and though his impact has diminished over the years, there’s no doubting the World Cup winner’s quality in front of goal.

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The prospect of an elite level striker arriving at St James’ Park on a free transfer is a no brainier if the player can be convinced and the club should make it happen.  He knows the league inside-out, having made 212 appearances for Chelsea – where he won the Champions League – and with Benitez at Anfield, and he could instantly propel Newcastle’s attack to higher levels.

Becoming a crucial part of a new project on Tyneside would be enticing for Torres, as his unwavering desire and tenacity on a football pitch is something that cannot be questioned. And he doesn’t seem the type to move to the States or China in pursuit of one last pay-cheque.

He has all the attributes to become a cult-hero at Newcastle, and the club should act now.

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