Mark Hughes harbours no resentment towards Manchester City as he prepares to face the club he watched transform into a global giant before his eyes.
Stoke boss Hughes spent just over a season in the managerial post at the Etihad Stadium, during which time they were taken over by owner Sheikh Mansour in 2008.
Hughes was the first to reap the benefits of Mansour’s lavish spending as the likes of Robinho, Emmanuel Adebayor and Carlos Tevez arrived, but he was then axed in December 2009 to make way for Roberto Mancini.
The Welshman, who admitted he knew the writing was on the wall when the club changed hands, will have no thoughts of revenge when Manuel Pellegrini brings the Citizens to the Britannia Stadium this weekend.
“I’ve no bitterness towards City. I wasn’t really their guy,” said Hughes.
“I was appointed by another group of people so when that group changed, if I’m honest, it was only a matter of time before I got replaced. Looking back I probably lasted as long as I could.”
Manchester City continued to grow under Mancini and Pellegrini, winning two top-flight titles in three seasons, and a £265million investment from China this week suggests they could soar to another level yet.
It is a fry cry from the club Hughes first arrived at seven years ago, although he did see their ascent coming.
“There was a desire and will from the owners to really try and move it on very, very quickly, probably more quickly than I thought initially,” he added.
“It doesn’t surprise me that amount of finance that has been thrown at it. They have ability now because they are viewed as a world club, whereas previously when I was there it was a mid-table Premier League club if we’re honest. The change that has taken place is unprecedented. It’s a completely different club from when I was there.”
The significant cash injection has allowed the Citizens to sign the likes of Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero, although both will miss out against the Potters due to injury.
Hughes noted they will “probably replace them with two other £25million players”, but reserved praise for Aguero, who he believes is one of the leading strikers in the game.
“I’m a huge fan of Aguero, I think he’s an outstanding player,” Hughes, a former forward himself, said. “His ability to change games in City’s favour is there for everybody to see and he’s done it on so many occasions.
“You need game changers like that. He’s certainly one of the best in the world in my view.”
Stoke’s own striker Peter Crouch will be missing for this clash, and possibly the remainder of the calendar year, with the hamstring injury he picked up against Sheffield Wednesday in midweek.
Versatile defender Marc Muniesa is back in full training and Ryan Shawcross is free from the suspension, but both Peter Odemwingie and Shay Given are missing again with respective hamstring and knee injuries.