Stoke City tried to sign future Inter Milan star and current Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez – before they ended up with Wilfried Bony at the beginning of the end of their chapter in the Premier League.
That is according to The Athletic, who rummage back in the rumour pile at who Stoke missed during the days under Mark Hughes, as well as the Champions League winners who did actually head to the Potteries.
Martinez would have only been 18 when chief scout Kevin Cruickshank reportedly flew out to Buenos Aires “on four occasions” to meet his agents – the Zarate brothers – who also represented current PSV Eindhoven forward Maxi Romero.
It is claimed Cruickshank was swiftly told in the summer of 2016 that Martinez had his sights set on joining Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid and the chase did not sound smooth.
It is reported: “Though the Zarate brothers helped with interpreting on the deals for Martinez and Romero, Cruickshank was left alone with Romero and they were left to communicate using Google Translate. Ultimately, Stoke were cautious about buying from Argentina, where they had only limited opportunities to view players live before signing them.”
Martinez eventually moved from Racing Club to Inter in 2018 and he has scored 30 goals in the subsequent two seasons, earning him a link with Barcelona.
Second target Romero has not yet made a breakthrough at PSV and has returned to his former club in Argentina on loan.
Bony arrived at Stoke instead on loan from Manchester City but only scored twice – both against his old club Swansea – and did not feature after the turn of the year.
Other near misses include Adama Traore – and it no secret that he visited Clayton Wood when he was on the lookout for a new home away from Barcelona before Aston Villa came in with a big bucks offer.
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“Remarkably, the deal was so advanced that Stoke’s Catalan contingent of Moha El Ouriachi, Muniesa and Bojan even dined with Traore as Stoke thought they had smoothed over a deal,” say The Athletic.