Capturing Joe Allen for £13m from Liverpool looks a very sound piece of business from Stoke, but the increasingly-quirky Potters may have made an even more significant purchase while getting over the line with the Wales dynamo.
Everton are reportedly on the verge of ruining Stoke’s summer by snapping up wide-forward Marko Arnautovic for the paltry, release-clause sum of £12.5m, with only a year left on the Austria international’s contract.
Sky sources in Austria claim Arnautovic has agreed to become Ronald Koeman’s second capture as Toffees chief, following Dutch goalie Maarten Stekelenburg’s arrival from Fulham, with the 27-year-old set to sign on for four years.
Arnautovic’s 11 Premier League goals in 2015/16 put him four ahead of Stoke’s second-top scorer Bojan Krkic, and more than next-best pair Mame Biram Diouf and Jonathan Walters combined, with six assists also laid on by the one-time tearaway.
With 15 in 284 senior club games, Allen hasn’t been brought in to replace the goals lost by Arnautovic’s seemingly-inevitable departure, but boss Mark Hughes needs new £5m winger Ramadan Sobhi to get up to Premier League pace quickly.
Al Ahly boss Martin Jol insists he fought to keep Sobhi, with the former Tottenham and Fulham chief revealing the 19-year-old’s next move could be to Manchester United if his telephone tip to Old Trafford gaffer Jose Mourinho bears fruit.
Sobhi has been compared to much-loved Egypt striker Mohamed Aboutrika, and became his country’s second-youngest player ever 13 months ago, just shy of his 18th birthday, bagging a first goal in the Pharoahs’ colours four months ago against Nigeria.
His tally of 11 goals in 55 league games so far is hardly call for a ticker tape parade, though comparable to Arnautovic’s at a similar stage, with the outgoing forward firing 14 in his first 59 all-competition fixtures for Dutch side Twente.
That being said, it took seven seasons for Arnautovic to get near replicating the 12-goal tally he racked up during the 2008/09 Eredivisie campaign, his last to date.
Should his star scorer leave, Hughes will require all hands to the pump if Stoke are to land their fourth top-ten finish in four campaigns under the Welshman at 2/1 with bwin.