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Is bargain hunter Mark Hughes the most underrated manager in the Premier League?

14 Jul | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Is bargain hunter Mark Hughes the most underrated manager in the Premier League?

The real wheeler dealer of the English game is at it again at Stoke

There was a time not so long ago, when the idea of Stoke City pursuing some of Europe’s most highly-rated youngsters from the continent’s top clubs would have seemed somewhat fanciful.

But now this is the reality for the Stoke fans.

Take Bojan. He came through Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy, then broke the record for the youngest player to debut for the first team – a record previously held by Lionel Messi.

A series of loans followed at Roma, Milan and Ajax – European football royalty, all – before he pitched up at the Britannia last summer.

On signing him, Potters boss Mark Hughes said: “Anyone who knows European football will be aware of him as a player and the fact that he sees his future at Stoke City is really exciting.”

Exciting, yes. It was also a little surprising.

Perhaps it is unfair, but Stoke City have always seemed more Rory Delap and Danny Higginbotham than former Barcelona and Milan youngsters.

This summer, Hughes is trying to pull off the same trick again, making a £12m bid for Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri – the 23-year-old former Bayern Munich player now at Internazionale and nicknamed ‘the Alpine Messi’.

It looks like Stoke’s pursuit of Shaqiri is to be in vain. The Alpine Messi apparently not fancying the idea of playing on a wet Tuesday night at Stoke.

But nonetheless, the fact that the Potters are even in the market for him shows the transformation they have undergone, first with Tony Pulis getting them into the Premier League and keeping them there, and now with Hughes taking them into the top ten (twice), even while adapting and developing their style of play to something that even former Barcelona starlets can thrive in.

Part of Hughes’ success is down to his transfer market savvy. Stoke will never be able to throw cash around like his former club Manchester City, so he has to be canny. And canny he is: Steve Sidwell, Phil Bardsley and Mame Biram Diouf were all brought in for nothing. Bojan came for less than £2m and Victor Moses was a loan.

This summer, Glen Johnson and Shay Given have both been signed for free. Both seasoned pros with bags of top flight and international experience.

Steven Nzonzi has been sold to Sevilla for £7m. His replacement Marco van Ginkel has been signed for nothing – a loan deal from Chelsea.

Hughes has also signed a former Real Madrid youngster to go with his Barca boy Bojan. Joselu cost just over £5m.

None world-beaters, perhaps (yet), but great business for a club on a frugal budget which Hughes has stretched incredibly well.

But then, he does have form for this.

In his first club job at Blackburn, he took them to the top six of the Premier League by sniffing out bargains all over Europe.

Benny McCarthy got the goals but cost just £2m, along with £3.5m man Roque Santa Cruz.

He rescued David Bentley for just £500k from the Arsenal reserves – and got him playing (no easy feat). Defensive rocks Christopher Samba (£400k) and Ryan Nelson (free) shored things up at the back, along with Stephen Warnock (£1.5m).

That is a combined outlay of less than £8m.

When they left Ewood Park, Santa Cruz, Samba, Warnock and Bentley were sold for a total of £53.3MILLION.

And they call Harry Redknapp a wheeler dealer…

Everton v Stoke (pre-season friendly) betting

Stoke City Season Specials:

16/1 – Stoke to finish in the Top 6

12/1 – Stoke to win the Premier League (without the Big 6)

Evs – Stoke to be top Midlands club

150/1 – Bojan Krcic to be top Premier League goalscorer

NOW READ: Sterling’s reputation will be fine. Fans still wecome contract rebels with open arms > >

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