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FEATURE: Stoke City. Transfer targets assessed from The Britannia.

Following another vintage mid-table performance this season, Stoke enter the Summer off-season knowing that keeping the core of the squad together will be instrumental to success in the transfer window and their ambitions to break into the top-10. Already, much speculation has surrounded the future of Stoke’s two stand out performers of the recent past – Xherdan Shaqiri and Jack Butland.

Both raised eyebrows when joining Stoke from Inter Milan and Birmingham City respectively by both passing up the opportunity to sign for traditionally larger clubs in Liverpool and Chelsea. While Butland and Shaqiri were seeking guaranteed first team football which they felt Stoke could give them, these signings did demonstrate the financial clout that many mid-table clubs have begun to wield in light of the new Premier League TV deals.

Shaqiri’s potential departure is an ultimate knock on effect from the dealings of clubs above, with Roma seeking to replace Salah following his £39 million pound move to Liverpool and seeing Shaqiri as the perfect replacement. Few could argue with any desire Shaqiri might have to return to European football – a carrot even the most optimistic Stoke fan knows they cannot offer, notwithstanding another famous Europa League run off the back of a cup final. Chairman Peter Coates has however stressed that Shaqiri is not going anywhere, which with three years left on his current contract will mean Roma will have to make a sizeable offer to prise him away.

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Jack Butland, fit after a year out from injury, is also attracting interest from the Premier League top 4, with Arsenal seeming his most likely destination. Wenger seems to be seeking a long-term replacement for Peter Cech and sees Butland; many peoples tip for next England No 1, as the perfect fit. Again, Stoke have ruled out any move for him this summer and with Jordan Pickford’s £30m move to Everton setting a precedent for young English goalkeepers, Stoke will demand a huge fee to even consider selling Butland.

However with Chelsea and United also in the picture with their deep pockets, it is not inconceivable that such a demand could be met – although with the run up to the 2018 World Cup next year, any club Butland joins would have to guarantee first team football to allow him to fight for the England No 1 jersey.

Stoke may fall victim again to the dealings of the elite clubs, as should De Gea depart united this Summer, United would have the money, desire and vacancy to bring Butland to the club. Should Butland and Shaqiri depart this summer it wouldn’t necessarily spell disaster for the club. The core squad with the likes of Charlie Adam, Mauro Arnautovic, Ryan Shawcross and an evergreen Peter Crouch ensure that there is little fear at the club of relegation – while much confidence is being placed in rising star Ramadan Sobhi and returning Bojan Krkic following a successful loan spell at Mainz.

Furthermore, Stoke have already started early with a few shrewd signings, Darren Fletcher coming in from WBA on a free as well as a £12m offer for Middlesborough’s Ben Gibson to replace the large hole left by departing Martens-Indi. The departure of Butland and Shaqiri would raise at least £60m + for the transfer coffers.

Besides, Stoke tend to leave the bulk of their transfer business towards the back end of August and with that kind of money would find themselves with significant financial muscle to compete with top European clubs to land the sort of player being cast of by the elite clubs after a summer of splurging.

Stoke have already been linked with semi-exotic names such as Borussia Mochengladbach’s Thorgan Hazard and Inter defender Jeison Murillo who would both make excellent additions to the current squad. With or without Butland and Shaqiri, Stoke have the capability to perhaps raise eyebrows again come late August.

Written by Fabian Wood.

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