Stoke City

Stoke City

Championship

Exclusive: Stoke City close in on former Leicester target with French defender set to sign

Steven Schumacher with a prominent Stoke City badge alongside him

Steven Schumacher, Stoke City manager

TEAMtalk sources can reveal that Stoke City are closing in on a move for Sint-Truiden defender Eric Bocat, with the French star having been at the club for talks over a move this week.

The left-back has been plying his trade in the Belgian Pro League since 2022 and his progress has not gone unnoticed by the Championship side.

The 24-year-old, who has been at the academies of Dijon, Brest, and Lille, is more of an attacking full-back but does not shy away from his defensive duties.

According to statistics website FBRef, among full-backs in the Belgian top-flight, Bocat was in the top 10 per cent for interceptions, percentage of dribblers tackled, ball recoveries, and fouls drawn.

Moreover, he is in the top 20 per cent for progressive carries, pass completion, successful take-ons, and key passes. That, among other things, led to links with Leicester City and Turkish side Trabzonspor earlier this year.

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The French defender, whose contract at STVV expires in the summer of 2025, racked up 38 appearances this season, scoring two goals and four assists along the way.

Stoke near summer signing

Now, TEAMtalk can reveal Steven Schumacher’s side are inching closer to securing Bocat’s services this summer.

The left-back, who can also play as a wing-back and helped his side finish ninth in the Belgian Pro League, is in talks to join the Potters and has been at the club’s training ground this week to finalise the move.

Schumacher is focusing on quality recruits rather than quantity this summer, after the club recruited 18 players for the 2023/24 campaign and 37 transfer deals took place in total.

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In May, the former Plymouth Argyle boss  said: “I think you can make a difference if you get it right, if you get the recruitment right, get the personalities right who come in then we’ll have a chance to improve our results.

“The form since we’ve got here hasn’t been too bad, the points that we’ve acquired have been ok – not winning the league type of form but the type of form that can give you a chance to compete.

“It’s important we get off to a good start next year. We’ve just spoken to the players about what the off-season is going to look like, the pre-season programme and how that will probably more difficult than probably they have ever seen.

“If we can complement the squad with players who can help us improve then we’ll have a better chance to start the season well.”