The Nigerian was one of several players that came in for high transfer fees during a summer spending spree back in 2018 – and looked set to become a key player for the Potters following their relegation from the Premier League.
Despite appearing regularly during his first campaign in Staffordshire, his time at the club hasn’t exactly been successful with the midfielder going out on three loan deals since, joining Getafe and Galatasaray before making a temporary switch to then-Premier League outfit Watford last summer.
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But with a serious injury limiting his game time at Vicarage Road and the Hornets returning to the second tier, they may decide against pursuing a fresh move with Rob Edwards’ side seemingly yet to make an approach for him.
He isn’t guaranteed to be a regular starter at Stoke either this season, with Josh Laurent, Gavin Kilkenny and Will Smallbone coming in this summer to bolster their options in the middle of the park.
And at this point, Stoke boss O’Neill believes Etebo wants to secure another move away from the bet365 Stadium to end what has been an underwhelming four years at the club.
The Northern Irishman said: “He’s not fit enough to train with the squad yet and I think in his mind he’s still looking for a permanent exit from the club.
“It’s very difficult for us as a club to rewind two-and-a-half years but he’s still our player, he’s contracted to the club and we’re duty bound to look after him, which is what we’re doing.”
He doesn’t look set to be a key part of the first team considering the options they already have at their disposal – but Etebo should be preparing for the possibility that he remains at the bet365 Stadium.
Stoke are unlikely to get in the way of a permanent move if an offer is made because he isn’t likely to be on a modest salary but it’s currently unclear whether any team will come in for him.
Spending much of last season out injured, he hasn’t been able to put himself in the shop window and this is not just a blow for the player, but also the Potters who could be planning to move him on.
It will be interesting to see what part he does play if he doesn’t move on – because he could still be a reasonably good asset to have when fit and injuries could put him back in contention at some point.
It would be mad not to use him if he’s fully fit and O’Neill doesn’t have many other options he can call upon, especially if he performs well in training and has a good rapport with his teammates.