Decision pending – three options facing Stoke City boss over striker



Benik Afobe’s future has never looked more uncertain thanks to the coronavirus crisis.

The Stoke striker is among those many players currently out on loan and due to return to their parent clubs at the end of June.

But Afobe has the added complication of recovering from a long-term injury whilst on loan at Bristol City.

So what are the main options for manager Michael O’Neill as things stand in the confused state of English football?

1) Sell come what may.

In this case, it doesn’t much matter when or if the current campaign resumes as a deal can be struck when his loan spell terminates at the end of June.

That, of course, is always assuming Bristol want a deal and a price can be agreed between the two clubs.

What value, for example, do you put on a player who may not have played any football since last August come the negotations?

Some sort of structured deal would be the obvious answer if all three parties want a permanent deal.

2) Take him back and keep him.

He would return to Stoke after June 30 to either get ready for pre-season training ahead of the 2020/21 campaign, or would jump aboard for what is left of the 2019/20 campaign.

3) Hedge your bets.

Michael O’Neill would probably rather inspect the goods for himself if he thinks there is a way back for Afobe at Stoke.

That would mean watching Afobe in the run up to next season – whenever that is – and then deciding whether to keep or sell/loan out.

This would be complicated. Not only by when this season ends and the new one begins – and when the heck there will be a pre-season – but also by the dates of the summer transfer window.

Just when clubs can buy and sell will presumably be re-assessed once we know whether this season is going to be revived (and when), or if it’s going to be kicked into touch without resuming.

Stoke’s official stance is certainly leaning towards 3) while football is walking a high wire with the coronavirus crisis.

When asked at last Monday’s Fan Forum if Afobe to Bristol City was a done deal, chief executive Tony Scholes said:  “He’s not a done deal.

“Obviously he picked up his injury, which was a great shame for him, a shame for Bristol City and a shame for Stoke City as well.

“But no, it’s not a done deal. Obviously Benik is back in training and the loan to Bristol City is still in place.

“If he gets back fit and gets back match fit, then he’s an option for them, not for us.

“The loan expires at the end of June and as things stand at the moment he returns to us.”





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