Stoke City will be eyeing an immediate return to the Premier League with or without one of their star man, Xherdan Shaqiri. The club were relegated from the top flight after ten seasons, finishing three points behind 17th-place Southampton.
Paul Lambert was unable to guide his side away from the drop zone, with a run of one win in 13 matches to blame for the Potters’ downfall. Stoke parted company with Lambert at the end of the campaign and have brought Gary Rowett to the bet365 Stadium as his replacement.
Rowett has failed to guide Birmingham and Derby to the Premier League in his two previous positions, but will have an opportunity to reach the top division with Stoke. He has a talented squad, although the majority of key players will leave the club.
Shaqiri is the headline act after starring for the Potters in his three seasons, scoring 15 goals in his 92 appearances. Despite being involved in Stoke’s relegation, the 26-year-old has still been selected in Switzerland’s squad for the World Cup, where much will be expected of him by his homeland.
Switzerland have a tough match against Brazil in their opener, although they will fancy their chances in their contests with Serbia and Costa Rica in Group E. Excellent performances from Shaqiri could boost his prospects of playing for an elite side next season, while it would also add significant value to his price tag for the Potters.
Tracking those matches will be an interesting prospect for Stoke supporters and fans of teams in need of a creative midfielder. Shaqiri has been an instrumental player for Switzerland and will be their key player at the tournament – it’s worth tracking his and their progress given that the team could be a wildcard worthy of consideration in the Football Tips daily double as the group stage as thrown up surprises before.
Stoke are in an interesting position with the first year of their parachute payments. Any additional cash raised from the sales of Shaqiri, Jack Butland and Badou Ndiaye could be vital to the club’s prospects in the future. Teams such as Middlesbrough and Aston Villa have spent to attempt to achieve an immediate return to the Premier League.
Both failed in their first term and, in the case of Aston Villa, are staring down a financial oblivion in terms of financial fair play after losing the playoff final in their second season in the Championship.
Stoke cannot afford to fall into the same trap, therefore, they have to try to either offload their high-earners or achieve immediate promotion back to the top flight where the television money provides the security to offset the rise in player wages.
The Potters have moved for Benik Afobe, which could provide an answer to the goalscoring woes that paved the way for the relegation from the Premier League. Similar moves for proven players at the second tier may be enough to guide them back to the top division, although not quite of the standard that Wolves managed to lure to Molineux that saw them dominate the Championship.
Next term is a vital season for Stoke and the money generated from sales could be the key to the long-term future of the club.