Marko Arnautovic was given a bit of special treatment when he was at Stoke City because he was such a special player.
Coaches and teammates would put up with mood swings and maverick behaviour, like trying to get off a plane mid-flight and ringing the manager’s son when he had a spider in the bath, as he could win the side games with moments of magic.
Mark Bowen, the assistant manager who helped bring him to the club, puts him on the top table in terms of talent for players that he has coached.
Even if he could usually rely on Arnautovic to interrupt his tea with a post-match phone call – and he would either be extraordinarily high or low.
He said in a wide-ranging interview with The Athletic: “I can remember walking into Mark’s office when we were looking for players at Stoke. We brought Marko to the club, and I had a fantastic relationship with him at Stoke. But Marko is and was a free spirit. I knew that on a Saturday night, it would get to seven or eight o’clock and my phone would go. I knew it would be Marko.
“He’d either be apologising to me for his performance, or he would be saying how fantastic he was and asking why he’s playing for Stoke City. We had a really good relationship.
“It went a bit sour in the end because he was in Mark’s office saying he wanted to move to West Ham.
“When he rings me every Saturday night and interrupts dinner with my wife, the least he could do was speak to me. Maybe he thought I’d try to talk him out of it.”
Arnautovic moved to West Ham in 2017 and on again to Shanghai SIPG in 2019.
This week he has been linked with a return to London but reports suggest that his “£5.1m-a-year post-tax salary demands” are too high.