Hughes taps on Barca links to strengthen Stoke

LONDON • Persuading players to swop Barcelona for Britannia is fast becoming Mark Hughes' forte.

The Stoke City manager on Monday secured his latest coup, with the arrival of former Barcelona winger Ibrahim Afellay on a free transfer.

Afellay agreed a two-year contract with Stoke and will link up with Hughes and his new team-mates on their pre-season tour of France.

The 29-year-old Netherlands international - capped 50 times - was available to move after his contract with Barcelona expired in the close-season.

He becomes the fourth former Barcelona player to join Stoke.

Hughes played for Barcelona in the 1980s and his connections with the Catalan giants saw the earlier signings of Bojan Krkic, Marc Muniesa and Moha El Ouriachi.

Stoke chief executive Tony Scholes told his club's website: "It's no secret that Ibrahim was wanted by a number of clubs and we are understandably delighted that he has chosen to join us.

"He's clearly excited about the prospect of playing in the Premier League and the fact that he knows so many players who are already at the club will no doubt help him settle into his new surroundings."

Afellay started his career with PSV Eindhoven, where he scored 35 goals in 159 league appearances and helped the Dutch club win four Eredivisie titles.

But his time with Barcelona was disrupted by injury problems and he made just 21 league appearances for the Spanish club, while also spending time on loan at Schalke and Olympiakos.

He becomes Stoke's eighth close-season signing following the arrivals of Philipp Wollscheid, Jakob Haugaard, Joselu, Marco van Ginkel, Glen Johnson, Shay Given and Moha.

Hughes has also confirmed that the Potters remain interested in Ukrainian winger Andriy Yarmalenko, for whom they are reported to have made a £13 million (S$27.6 million) bid, having sold Steven N'Zonzi and Asmir Begovic for a combined £15 million.

"We've expressed an interest, but we're not the only club," Hughes told BBC Radio Stoke.

"I'm not sure how it's progressing. We're in the market for good players but we also understand that there are other clubs who covet players at that level.

"We are encouraged by the conversations we're having but we also know we have just got to be patient. If it can be done, then the club will try to make it happen." AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline 'Hughes taps on Barca links to strengthen Stoke'. Print Edition | Subscribe