Ibrahim Afellay has urged in-form Stoke forward Marko Arnautovic to sign a new deal with the Potters, saying he’s a player capable of “making the difference”.
The Austrian player has been in excellent form for Mark Hughes’ side this season and scored his 10th Premier League goal of the campaign in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Southampton.
Stoke have offered the player a new deal, but with no agreement reached, Afellay is keen to see the player sign up before he enters the final 12 months of his current deal.
Speaking to the Stoke Sentinel, Afellay said: “Marko is doing a fantastic season and for me is a fantastic player and a fantastic guy, so I hope he can stay a long time with us.
“This kind of player can always make a difference for you in a game and it’s always difficult to find a player of that quality and Marko, for me, is a top player.”
And on his left-wing ball for Arnautovic’s first-time finish against Southampton, he added: “Sometimes it’s a feeling that you have to put it in some areas because people are coming in and you want good players to finish it. It was a good goal.”
Sadly, Arnautovic’s 52nd minute strike was not to be the prelude to a successful second-half comeback after going in 2-0 down at the break.
“The result is very disappointing for us,” Afellay conceded. “Their first goal is a corner, so you have to mark your man, it’s very simple, and the second goal is too easy.
“So after 25 minutes you are fighting for two goals back, but I am proud of the team second half because we tried to do everything we could
“I think we dominated the second half totally and didn’t have luck with the last touch.”
Boss Mark Hughes doesn’t appear to have minced his words at 2-0 down at half-time after seeing his players nosedive towards a sixth league defeat at the Britannia – in front of the stadium’s biggest-ever league attendance of 27,833.
Afellay continued: “On this level you cannot give the goals away like this and he said you have to do something about it second half and we did that with the early goal. We created chances, but didn’t have any luck.”
Afellay acknowledged it was a setback to lose ground on Southampton, who are now a point in front, but insisted there is still plenty of time to rectify Saturday’s loss.
“It was one of our rivals, but there’s still eight games left and everybody is near each other, so we will keep fighting to the end
“We have to give every week 120 per cent because every week is a big challenge and you have to give everything to get results.”
On newcomer Gianelli Imbula he added: “I I think these kind of players make your team better. He’s very good with the ball and creates things.”