Stoke and WBA flex their muscles

Swiss player Xherdan Shaqiri joins Stoke for £12 million, as mid-tier clubs also spend big.
Swiss player Xherdan Shaqiri joins Stoke for £12 million, as mid-tier clubs also spend big.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Stoke City smashed their record fee to sign Swiss forward Xherdan Shaqiri on Tuesday as, for the second day running, the English Premier League's middle-ranking clubs flaunted their ever-expanding spending power.

Stoke said on their website they had paid £12 million (S$26.2 million) to Inter Milan for Shaqiri.

With total outlay in the summer transfer window already topping £500 million, the signing epitomises how it is no longer just the so-called big English football clubs who are splashing serious cash.

Not so long ago, fans of modest Stoke could never have envisaged raiding one of Europe's most famous clubs for a talent like Shaqiri, once likened to Lionel Messi when first bursting onto the scene with Swiss club Basel in 2009 before joining Bayern Munich three years later.

But with the Premier League's new £5.14 billion domestic TV contract kicking in from next season, not to mention further riches pumped in by overseas TV deals, previously unfashionable clubs are now in the market for household names.

On Monday, West Bromwich Albion also broke their club record, paying £12 million to Zenit St Petersburg for Venezuela striker Salomon Rondon, while the likes of Swansea City and Crystal Palace have also made eye-catching signings.

Shaqiri, who has signed a five-year deal, could make his debut at Tottenham on Saturday and Stoke manager Mark Hughes said he is excited to land such a high-quality player.

"He's a dynamic and explosive player who will bring something different to the group and at the age of 23 he still has a great deal of potential," Hughes told the website. "In the chats I've had with him it's obvious that he's excited about playing in the Premier League and showing what he's capable of."

Shaqiri has scored 17 goals in 46 appearances for Switzerland, including one memorable left-foot thunderbolt against England in a Euro 2012 qualifier in 2010.

He also scored a hat-trick in last year's World Cup Finals match against Honduras, which featured another, equally spectacular left-foot rocket.

Stoke have long been associated with a physical, typically English style of play. But, since taking over from Tony Pulis, Hughes has been clearly trying to build a less prosaic, more expansive team.

They also have former Barcelona youngster Bojan Krkic in their ranks while another former Barca player, Dutch international winger Ibrahim Afellay, signed a two-year contract in the close season.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline 'Stoke and WBA flex their muscles'. Print Edition | Subscribe