Stoke City have announced that Staffordshire oatcakes will be on the menu this season but it was the arrival of record signing Xherdan Shaqiri that had manager Mark Hughes licking his lips.
Hughes declared his belief that the £12m recruit from Internazionale would “sprinkle stardust” on his Stoke team during Shaqiri’s official unveiling.
The acquisition of the Swiss playmaker, a Champions League winner with Bayern Munich in 2013, is an impressive statement of intent by Stoke, who had to order in extra letter Qs for the rush to buy Shaqiri replica shirts.
It leaves Hughes hopeful of building on two successive ninth-placed finishes in the Premier League. “At the top level, you have to have players in your squad with the ability to change games with their individual talent and Xherdan has the ability to create something out of nothing,” he said.
Hughes, who already has two other such talents in his squad in Bojan Krcic and Marko Arnautovic, added: “As you progress you need those players who sprinkle a bit of stardust to change games.”
Shaqiri’s decision to join Stoke, who had bid unsuccessfully for his signature before he left Bayern for Inter in January, has earned him criticism in Germany from Stefan Effenberg, the former Germany midfielder.
Effenberg, a pundit on Sky Germany, said he had been “badly advised” and was only joining Stoke for the money. “Earning €1m more or less should be irrelevant – when you can make €6m at Stoke or €3m at Schalke, you pick the latter,” he said.
But Shaqiri, who has signed a five-year deal worth an estimated £80,000 per week, responded: “He has not got a job at the moment so he can talk – he is a free man. I don’t want to comment; I concentrate on my job and I can’t wait to play. I think English football is perfect for me.”
Shaqiri revealed that he knew Stoke was “the second oldest club in the world”, but for Hughes, the attraction of Staffordshire for the 23-year-old lies elsewhere. As with Barcelona old boy Bojan, Shaqiri will have a platform to get his career back on course after limited opportunities under Roberto Mancini at Inter.
“There is a financial angle, which you accept,” said Hughes, “but it is about playing. He is a young man and he wants to get back on track. He has been at two big European clubs but hasn’t had the benefit of playing week in, week out for a number of years and maybe that is the attraction.”
Shaqiri made 52 league appearances and scored 11 goals during two and a half years at Bayern. Hughes added: “He is made to measure for the Premier League, in terms of his strength and his pace – he is really going to enjoy his time. Sometimes circumstances have to fall for you and you need that little bit of luck. We probably had a similar situation with Bojan when he came. We were the right club at the right time.
“He looked really excited this morning and – as you’d expect when you bring in a player of his quality – almost everybody’s level went up at training. That is the impact top players have.”Reuse content