Stoke Transfer Focus – Hughes facing a fight to keep Potters’ stars

After parting company with manager Tony Pulis at the end of last season, Stoke City have looked to this summer, and new boss Mark Hughes, to ring the changes at the Britannia Stadium.

As the Potters search for a new beginning Hughes is the man who has been charged with driving the change. However, keeping hold of the club’s prized assets could be the toughest task the Welshman faces.

Speculation surrounding the Potters’ Bosnian international goalkeeper Asmir Begovic has been growing since January as he has been attracting attention from the league’s bigger teams, with Arsenal, Liverpool and both Manchester clubs all rumoured to be potential suitors.

Another player Hughes will have to persuade to stay is midfielder Steven Nzonzi. The Frenchman claims he was promised an improved contract if he played a certain number of games for the Potters. It would seem, though, that he has not been offered that deal and is now keen to depart.

However, Hughes has wasted little time in picking out some early transfer targets of his own, as many sources have already linked Stoke with Celtic’s 21-year-old midfielder Victor Wanyama. The Kenyan would suit the Potters’ style of play as a strong player as comfortable with the ball played into his feet as in the air. Though, if Wanyama does make the switch, it could mean that time is up for Dean Whitehead.

It has also been reported in several publications that Hughes will stage a raid on former club Queens Park Rangers for new arrivals. Both the Mirror and the Daily Telegraph have reported that the Welshman will use striker Peter Crouch as a possible bargaining chip to attract new signings.

Crouch may be persuaded to move back to the capital, with QPR manager Harry Redknapp being a long-term fan of the lanky striker, after working with him at Portsmouth, Southampton and Tottenham.

If Hughes can successfully use Crouch in a swap deal, he could offer Junior Hoilett an escape route from his turgid spell at Loftus Road. The 22-year-old would fit nicely into Stoke chairman Peter Coates’ plans for the club’s future as reports from local paper The Sentinel suggest that the Potters’ supremo is looking to bring in younger players with a higher sell-on value, after ex-manager Pulis’ profit margins were hit hard by the acquisitions of older players such as Crouch.

If Hoilett were to come in at the Britannia it would almost certainly mean the end of Jermaine Pennant’s torrid 18 months in the Potteries. Matthew Etherington also looks to be eyeing the exit door, with a move back down south rumoured to be his preferred destination.

With change being the order of the day in the Potteries it looks a lot like the new manager will be spending more time convincing stars to stay rather than introducing new talent. However, if money can be generated from player sales, Hughes could find himself with some money to spend in the coming weeks.

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