Football

Stoke City strike gold with Inter Milan star Xherdan Shaqiri

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Stoke City have pulled off a major coup with the club-record signing of Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri from Inter Milan.

It's been a protracted transfer that has dragged on for several weeks, but Shaqiri's presence in the stands to watch his prospective new teammates take on Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium last weekend suggested the switch was closer than ever.

The 23-year-old playmaker had been the subject of interest from Bundesliga outfit Schalke, while the Potters called a halt to their pursuit a month ago, having failed to receive a response from the player's representatives to their initial enquiry.

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However, the Potters' proposal appeared back on the table as soon as it became clear there was no way back at Inter for Shaqiri after an ill-fated six-month spell in Serie A.

Given the fact that they convinced him sufficiently to eventually reach agreement on the deal speaks volumes for their determined attempts to become a fixture in the top half of the Premier League table.

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It could also signal a sea-change in Stoke's approach, which manager Mark Hughes has been trying to introduce steadily throughout his two years in charge.

Shaqiri is a versatile schemer in possession of the requisite close-control and vision to bring a whole new dimension to an attack once-renowned for their reliance upon lumping long balls and throw-ins into the box.

Slowly, but surely, the Welshman has utilised strong links with European clubs he represented during his playing career - such as Bayern and Barcelona - to bolster his ranks and increase the technical level of the squad at his disposal.

Tactical overhaul

With the introduction of the diminutive and dynamic Swiss midfielder, his efforts to overhaul an ingrained tactical plan from a previous regime could be complete.

Switzerland's creator-in-chief boasts 46 caps and 17 goals so far at international level, including a wonderful hat-trick in their 3-0 triumph over Honduras at last year's World Cup finals.

He won three successive Swiss league titles with FC Basel, prior to a big-money to Bayern Munich, where he spent as much time on the bench as he did out on the field.

Despite a lack of starting opportunities, the Kosovo-born star accumulated 17 goals and 19 assists in all competitions during a two-and-a-half-year stint in Bavaria.

In his quest for regular first team action, he joined up with former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini at Inter in January 2015.

Signs of hope

The chances of a successful transition into Italian football appeared promising when Shaqiri struck his first goal for the club and also provided an assist in the Nerazzurri's 4-1 away victory at Atalanta in only his fifth appearance, but injury niggles saw his involvement dwindle.

Still, he produced an impressive minutes played to chances created ratio of 26 minutes from 15 Serie A outings, which was the best of any Inter player with three or more league appearances to their name last season. It would seem Mancini simply didn't rate him and nothing was going to alter his outlook on the matter. 

After failing to settle at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in Milan, perhaps this intriguing move to England can, at long last, open the way for the playmaker to fulfil his true potential.

Shaqiri will certainly excite fans with his dynamic movement and incisive passing, while he may have finally found a home where he can express his abundant talent - and prove Roberto Mancini wrong into the bargain. 

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Topics:
Football
Mark Hughes
Stoke City
Inter Milan
Premier League

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