Ibrahim Afellay has declared manager Mark Hughes the “most important” factor in attracting the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan Krkic to the Britannia Stadium.
Since Hughes took over from Tony Pulis as Stoke’s manager, the Staffordshire-based club have been able to lure players who were previously rated some of the hottest prospects in Europe but are now looking to reboot their careers.
Afellay fits that mould exactly, with the ex-PSV captain having joined Barcelona midway through the 2010-11 season but never having settled at Camp Nou.
At the Britannia, the 29-year-old midfielder is part of a squad that includes other Barca alumni in Bojan and Marc Muniesa, as well as ex-Chelsea midfielder Marco van Ginkel and former Bayern Munich forward Shaqiri.
It is a far cry from the days of Pulis when Rory Delap was launching long throws at the likes of James Beattie and Ricardo Fuller.
“You just can’t compare it – it’s a big, big difference,” Afellay told the Mirror. “A throw-in was like a corner kick. The ball came into the box and then – fight.
“Now they have a project, a new philosophy and they try to play football. It’s not like the years before.”
The Dutchman added: “I’ve only been here a short time but it’s a fantastic club. The manager in this case is the most important because he decides how a team wants to play. You can see that we are a team who tries to play football.”
In Afellay, Shaqiri, Bojan, Muniesa and Marko Arnautovic, Hughes has five players in his squad who have lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy.
But of all of them, Afellay reckons Shaqiri will be most important this season.
“He’s a great player. He is a big signing for us,” Afellay said.
“We were disappointed he couldn’t play at Tottenham, but we did well and look forward to the next game he can play.”
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