Hughes: Record signing free to move on

Ian Watson

Stoke will listen to offers for their record signing Giannelli Imbula, boss Mark Hughes has revealed.

Imbula, who joined from Porto in January 2016 for £18.3million, last started a Premier League game in December and the 24-year-old French midfielder has been linked with Roma.

Hughes said on Friday: “It is fair to say with G it hasn’t quite worked out as any of us would want and if there was interest in him, we’d consider that.

“We haven’t had any interest – as far as I’m aware it is all speculation – but we’d look at things (if there was interest). It would have to be something we felt was correct.

“Sometimes players can come to clubs and find it more difficult and the Premier League is a different league as well. He has struggled with that to a certain extent.

“He probably hasn’t progressed as well as we would have liked and that has been a frustration for him and for us.”

Hughes also said Stoke were not, contrary to some reports, targeting Charlie Taylor, the Leeds defender who is the subject of interest from West Brom and was fined by his club this week for refusing to play against Wigan.

“It’s not something we are looking to pursue. We’re aware of the player, but he’s not one of our targets,” Hughes said.

The Welshman was speaking at his press conference ahead of Saturday’s home clash with Arsenal.

It is a fixture that has tended to have considerable edge over the years and one which Stoke have a fine record in, losing only one and winning four of their previous eight home league meetings with the Gunners.

This time around, fifth-placed Arsenal go into the match looking to keep up their pursuit of a top-four finish.

Asked if his players would like nothing better than to end Arsenal’s chances of making the top four, Hughes said: “I don’t think it gets as personal as that. We just like to upset teams that maybe sometimes expect to win.

“Our record stands comparison to anybody against Arsenal. It is our last home game, our fans will be totally behind us and the fact that it is Arsenal will add to the mix, so I’m really looking forward to it.”

After last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Bournemouth, Stoke were left 13th, two points adrift of the ninth place they have finished in under Hughes for the last three years, with two more games to play.

When it was put to him on Friday that there has been some criticism from Stoke fans, the 53-year-old, whose side have won just one of their last nine matches, said: “We are safe from relegation.

“Before I came that was the be all and end all. Since I’ve come here I’ve tried to raise expectations.

“There’s always a risk with that. But I’d like to think people for the most part have acknowledged how hard it is for Stoke City to keep on competing at the level we are.

“And if results go with us and we win our last two games, we could be eighth. So it’s all about perception, I think, and maybe a little bit of realistic understanding of where we are.

“We are still absolutely desperate to push the club forward and I think next year that’s what we’ll do.

“We don’t see this as a trend, in terms of being below ninth. We view it as a blip and we’ll be stronger next year.”