Muniesa signs new Stoke contract
Published 07/08/2015 | 14:42
Stoke defender Marc Muniesa has agreed a new four-year contract with the Barclays Premier League club.
The Barcelona academy prospect, 23, opted to leave the Spanish giants in the summer of 2013 to sign for Mark Hughes' side and has become an increasingly important presence due to his versatility.
With club captain Ryan Shawcross out for two months due to a back problem and Marc Wilson also a doubt for the curtain-raiser against Liverpool on Sunday, Muniesa could have an even more pivotal role in the early stages of the season.
"We're delighted that he's recommitted to the club," said Hughes.
"He made a big decision when he decided to join. It's not easy to leave a club of the stature of Barcelona, you have to have a real strength of character to concede that you're going to shut the door on maybe a dream that you've had for a long, long time and go on another path.
"He was prepared to do that, he saw us as a good option for him. He had to be patient, he didn't walk into the team. He probably wasn't physically strong enough initially when he came but he's worked exceptionally hard on the strength and conditioning side. That helped him.
"But it was always going to be his talent that forced him into my thinking. Whenever I've asked him to come on, he's never let me down. He's growing stronger month on month and we're delighted he's recommitted.
"He's a good guy as well; he always plays with a smile on his face and he's an engaging character around the group."
Muniesa was the first to make the voyage from Catalonia to the Potteries two summers ago but that path has been travelled more often since, with Hughes forging a link with a club he used to play for.
Bojan Krkic, Moha El Ouriachi and Ibrahim Afellay will all wear the red and white of Stoke this season after donning red and blue in the past, and it has been suggested that current Barcelona winger Adama Traore could swell that ex-Barca contingent even further.
However, Hughes admits Stoke are not the only club showing interest in the teenager.
"We've had discussions with him," he said.
"They're ongoing but, as with most players who are coveted, there's a lot of other teams that have an interest and are probably having the same type of conversations that we've had. There's no progress on that as yet."
Both Bojan and Afellay will be in the squad against Liverpool on Sunday in the first competitive game since Stoke thrashed them 6-1 at the Britannia Stadium in May.
The former missed that contest with the knee injury that had kept him out since January, and although the 24-year-old has returned this pre-season Hughes was coy on whether he would start against the Reds.
"He's not quite at the level that he was before the injury but he's getting there very, very quickly," Hughes said of Bojan.
"He's had game time in pre-season and improved every time he's played. He's still an option for me; the decision is whether or not I feel whether he can start games yet. That's something I need to mull over but we're delighted that he's at the level he's at now so quickly after the operation."
One player who will have to come out of the XI that played against Liverpool three months ago is Shawcross, who is facing at least two months out due an operation he needs on his back.
However, Hughes stressed he had "good cover" when asked if the England cap's absence would force him into the transfer market.