It may have been a deal that slipped the neutral by but Stoke City managed to pull off an excellent transfer coup yesterday by winning the race for young Barcelona defender Marc Muniesa on a free transfer.
The 21-year-old was part of the Spanish squad that recently win the European Under-21 Championships in Israel and becomes the second signing of the Mark Hughes era at The Britannia Stadium; and is the clearest indication yet that The Potters are ready to adapt their playing style this season.
Like it or not Stoke have earned a reputation for being something of a long-ball side during their time in the Premier League under Tony Pulis; and for the most part they have been unapologetic for their take on football.
The reason why they were so reluctant to feel bad about playing football ‘’the wrong way’’ is because it was effective.
Long throw-ins, powerful bullish defending and hard tackling in the middle of the park; it may not have been pretty or modern but to the old fashioned football fan it was how football should be played.
Playing this way kept Stoke in the Premier League for the Tony Pulis reign; but last season it almost came unstuck.
Stoke flirted with relegation toward the end of the season as teams cottoned on to the Pulis playing style and the performance levels of some of those key-men in this system dipped.
Stoke chairman Peter Coates took decisive and divisive action this summer by deciding to replace Pulis with Hughes.
Which does seem a like-for-like swap of sorts; Hughes did not win many plaudits for the way he lined up his team at Blackburn Rovers. This is still his most successful stint as a club manager but at Manchester City and QPR he did try to play a more attractive style of football; with varying levels of success.
After all this is a man whose playing career saw him turn out for Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern Munich; three of the most attractive teams in world football.
Muniesa is not a typical Stoke centre-half. He likes the ball at his feet and is an adept passer of the ball. He can also play at left-back but given the recent acquisition of Erik Pieters in that position he has clearly been signed as a central defender.
But don’t expect to see Muniesa clattering into challenges and bypassing the midfield.
It is a gamble by Hughes and Coates but clearly the chairman felt that under Pulis this was a once solid ship that had entered choppy waters and was set to sink.
So a change of skipper was necessary.
The danger is Stoke end up stuck halfway between playing in the way someone like Muniesa suggests and the way which Pulis had them playing for survival before; a similar problem that befell Hughes at QPR after taking over from Neil Warnock.
Because then the HMS Stoke City would certainly sink.
Do you think the Muniesa signing indicates a change of playing style at The Britannia? Are you worried you might get stuck halfway?
image: © Vincent Teeuwen