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Stoke City's returnees feel like brand new signings

Sunday 1st July 2018

Stoke City is trying to regain hope after suffering Premier League relegation. Aiming to bounce back at the first attempt, Gary Rowett oversees the Potters' mission. The Englishman has already enlisted help, recruiting frontman Benik Afobe and Nigeria international Oghenekaro Etebo. Familiar faces have returned recently, too.        

Stoke welcome back two players who have been out on loan. Fans will treat both like new signings.  

Bojan Krkic

Once regarded as Lionel Messi's heir to the throne at Barcelona, Bojan joined Stoke four summers ago. Inconsistent performance meant the Catalan fell out of favour with then-manager Mark Hughes. He was leased out to Bundesliga side Mainz 05 in January 2017. That decision left Potters supporters bemused. They felt the creative attacker was good enough to remain in Staffordshire.  

After returning from Germany five months later, Bojan was expected to play a role at Stoke. Hughes stated: ''We feel he will have a good season for us''. It wasn't to be.  

The little magician was soon loaned out again, this time to Spanish side Alaves. His 13 La Liga appearances mean he's played only 24 games in the last two campaigns. 

Many neutrals will believe Bojan can still succeed in the Premier League. For that to happen, he must first help the Potters secure promotion.   

Known for dribbling, passing and weaving through defenders, Bojan has been missed at Stoke. His creativity could prove a valuable asset to Rowett's side next season.   

Giannelli Imbula

The Frenchman is considered a major flop. Signing at Stoke in 2016 for a club-record £18 million, Imbula failed to make an impact. He joined Toulouse on loan last August. Not only another of Hughes' decisions, one which confused Potters fans. Surely the former Porto star could pull his weight in England?    

Imbula looked promising initially. However, inconsistency soon crept in. He gradually drifted from the starting eleven. The Belgium-born midfielder made 26 Stoke appearances before his stint in Ligue 1, where he helped Toulouse secure safety in a relegation playoff against AC Ajaccio.  

Imbula's return to the Potters leaves a few questions. Will he remain beyond this summer? If so, will he be a first-teamer? Favouring a defensive-midfield role, the 25-year-old must compete against players such as Joe Allen and recent addition Etebo.  

Marc Muniesa's loan spell at Girona came to an end. Unfortunately for Stoke, he's since made a permanent move to his birthplace. The centre-back was a fan-favourite at the Bet365 Stadium. He sent regards for the support received.   

The Potters have reasons for optimism besides players returning from loans. Former player Rory Delap has joined the backroom staff. Known mainly for his 'Delapidator', an incredibly long throw which took the Premier League by storm, the 41-year-old is now tasked with helping the club win promotion next campaign.     

Kevin Phillips is another notable addition to the coaching team. The former striker's vast knowledge of finding the net will prove vital. Stoke have lacked in that area.     

With the Potters expected to challenge atop the Championship, Bojan and Imbula's returns have given fans extra confidence. Things are looking up off the pitch. On it, Rowett's men must soon deliver.

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Jamie Kynaston

For my sins, I'm a season ticket holder at Stoke City, I have been proud to watch them for over 20 years. I follow most of the UK leagues and the major European ones too, and I've been told that I talk way too much about football.

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