Stoke's signing of Xherdan Shaqiri a massive coup for Mark Hughes
It is a saga that has run for much of the summer but Mark Hughes has finally completed the signing of his No. 1 target, Inter Milan's Xherdan Shaqiri, for a club record £12 million.
Hughes has worked tirelessly to bring in a real marquee signing and with the arrival of Shaqiri he has done exactly that. Nicknamed "The Alpine Messi," the 23-year-old midfielder is a player who, despite his tender years, comes with an enviable CV detailing spells in Switzerland, Germany and Italy. It was at Bayern Munich where his talents were showcased on a global scale -- despite a hugely successful spell at Basel beforehand -- playing a key part in his side's historic and unprecedented Treble in 2013.
It would be normal at this point to list the career threatening injuries he's endured and long spells out of the game that explain how he now finds himself at Stoke, but the truth is that he arrives in the Potteries every inch the player he left Bayern as. Of course, his move to Inter Milan in January didn't go entirely to plan but his star still shines brightly and he joins the club with his best years ahead of him.
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In terms of where he will fit in at Stoke, the obvious answer would be over on the right hand side -- where he has enjoyed the bulk of his success -- but in truth he is versatile enough to play anywhere across the front line. When he joined Inter Milan he gave the Nerazzurri an insight into exactly where on the field he sees himself telling FourFourTwo: "I feel most comfortable as a No. 10, where I can roam across the attack and have the chance to both shoot and pass, but obviously I'll do whatever the boss asks of me."
That flexibility is something that Hughes is keen to introduce and fans will see their latest star used in a variety of positions, interchanging with his colleagues during a match as required.
Deceptively short, Shaqiri has a low centre of gravity and a devastating turn of pace, with the strength to hold off his man. His direct running style will get fans off their seats and he has more than a few flicks and tricks up his sleeve to complement his impressive statistics for chances created, assists and goals scored. It's those meaningful contributions that Hughes is hoping he can add to the squad having lost the creative influence of Victor Moses -- who has returned to Chelsea after a loan spell -- as well as Bojan Krkic, who was injured for the second half of the last campaign.
While many will point to this signing happening entirely as a result of the latest Premier League TV rights deal, it's a move that the Potters have spent a lot of time working towards and one that can be seen as a significant coup for a club making gigantic strides under the guidance and ambition of Hughes.
The manager has overseen what can only be described as a revolution in footballing terms and has been desperate to bring in the kind of player his success over the last two years has deserved. In signing Shaqiri, Stoke's reputation and global appeal will only grow further as the club seek to shake off any remaining stereotypes lingering from the previous regime.
The chairman, manager and transfer team deserve every platitude they're receiving following the signing of such a talent, not just for managing to persuade Shaqiri to join, but in continuing the chase for other high profile targets to complement him. Just looking down a list of linked players that includes the likes of Andriy Yarmolenko warms the heart of every Stoke fan, but any potential deals already in the works have now been given additional impetus by the Switzerland international's arrival.
Of course it will take time for him to settle in, but the thought of a midfield and front line boasting the talents of Ibrahim Afellay, Marco van Ginkel, Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic and Bojan is more than enough to whet the appetite of football fans everywhere, let alone the ones lucky enough to have a seat at the Britannia.
James Whittaker is ESPN FC's Stoke blogger. Follow him on Twitter: @northstokie