Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill says Mario Vrancic’s promotion-winning experience was one of the main reasons why he brought the 32-year-old to the bet365 Stadium, in an interview with the Stoke Sentinel.
The Potters have been stuck in midtable since their relegation from the Premier League in 2018 – finishing 16th, 15th and 14th with their spending spree the summer after their demotion not working out for the club.
Three years ago, they splashed out on multi-million pound deals for Oghenekaro Etebo, James McClean, Tom Ince and Sam Clucas. Arguably, only the latter’s move fully worked out for the Staffordshire side, with Etebo failing to appear regularly under O’Neill and McClean and Ince set to move on in this window.
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This summer of spending has hamstrung the club in recent years with the EFL’s profit and sustainability rules to abide by – an issue that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic’s effects on club revenue.
Meanwhile, Vrancic has had a much more successful time in England over the past four years, winning promotion twice with Norwich City and playing regularly for the Canaries since his arrival in Norfolk back in 2017.
However, the newly-promoted side announced they had not offered the 32-year-old a new contract earlier this summer and was released, allowing O’Neill to recruit the Bosnian.
Vrancic may have been surplus to requirements at Carrow Road – but the Stoke City boss believes he has a lot to offer to the Potters and spoke to the Stoke Sentinel about his summer arrival.
He said: “If you look at us as a squad at this minute in time, the three years we’ve had in the Championship, we’ve not been at the top end.
“The players that have come through or the players who have been here over a longer period, that’s the experience that they’ve had in the Championship.
“To bring someone in like Mario who has been promoted twice is a positive and hopefully we will see that in games.
“He’s a player that will get on the ball, he’s a player that will make your team play and maybe when they’re looking for something he can ignite it and bring a bit of something special to a game that lifts the performance.
“That was the reason and rationale behind bringing him to the club.”
It’s quite clear Stoke have not been good enough in recent years, even with the slight improvements on their league finishes.
They need someone to come in and change the club’s mentality after coasting along for the past three seasons – and show exactly why they were able to become an established Premier League side for several years in the previous decade.
Their overspending since being relegated has harmed them but with Vrancic coming in on a free transfer and the club looking to offload big wages, they are finally starting to get themselves in a much better financial shape.
And with the 32-year-old’s promotion-winning experience, he could be a valuable squad member to have in the dressing room as Michael O’Neill’s side look to escape another season of midtable mediocrity next term.