Back in late May, Stoke City freshened up their forward options for the season ahead by acquiring former Manchester United forward Mame Biram Diouf from German club Hannover. The 26-year-old signs up at the Britannia on a four-year deal and, as Potters chief executive Tony Scholes confirmed, finally brings the club’s year-long pursuit of the striker to an end:
“Mark Hughes has wanted to sign Mame since he took over as manager last year. We tried to get him last summer and made another attempt in January, so we’re naturally delighted to have finally secured his services. He’s a good age and Mark thinks he’ll improve him and help him develop as a player. That’s part of the sell to the player. He had a large number of choices. He could have gone to a number of clubs in the UK and Germany. A chance to work with Mark Hughes and have him tell you how to improve your game is going to be an attraction for any striker.”
The Senegal striker’s career began in his native country with Diaraf, back in 2006. After scoring 10 goals in 22 appearances, Diouf was snapped up by Norwegian side FC Molde in January 2007 and went on to score 33 times and serve up 17 assists over his time at the club before arriving at Old Trafford in the 2009/10 winter transfer window.
Diouf managed just five league appearances for United and found the net once before being loaned out to Blackburn for 2010/11. At Ewood Park, he produced six goals and a pair of assists in the Premier League before returning to the Red Devils but, having tumbled down the pecking order, failed to play another league game under Sir Alex Ferguson and was eventually sold to Hannover in January 2012.
Over the course of two-and-a-half seasons with the Bundesliga club, Diouf finally made his mark on European football. A total of 35 goals and 15 assists in 71 appearances in the German top-flight highlights a vast improvement in club form, whilst on the international stage, the 26-year-old has chipped in with three goals in 18 appearances for Senegal.
There’s no question that Hughes needs to add to his options up front. In an impressive first season at the helm, he steered the Potters to their highest ever top-flight finish but, despite ending the campaign in ninth spot, Stoke netted just 45 times – only five more than relegated Fulham, for example.
With a mere eight goals to his name from 34 league appearances, Peter Crouch was top scorer last time around – netting just one more than winter signing Peter Odemwingie, who was utilised on the right in a 4-2-3-1 formation. It’s fair to say that Crouch is perhaps more suited to the Potters’ previous style of play under Tony Pulis and, with just a year left on his contract, reports suggest he could be on his way out of the Britannia as Hughes looks for more pace and power through the middle.
Hughes’ long-term pursuit of Diouf certainly bodes well for his game time as the Welshman continues his restructuring programme at the Britannia. After a sluggish start in 2013/14, the Staffordshire outfit slowly became accustomed to a new, possession-based style of play and lost just three of their final 15 matches last term, with wins over the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and United indicative of their improvement.
Speaking earlier this week, the Potters boss feels his new acquisition will be better-equipped for the rigours of the Premier League after impressing over in Germany:
“I think Mame will feel he has something to prove. He has obviously had experience of the Premier League having had a spell at Manchester United that was probably frustrating for him because he didn’t get as much game time as he would have liked. But he’s gone to Germany, had the desire to make an impact over there and has done really well. His goal-scoring record in a very strong league as we know is comparable to anyone in the Bundesliga. We’re really pleased to have been able to bring him back to the Premier League and we all feel that as a consequence of his earlier experience in the Premier League he’ll be coming back here with a point to prove and to show the progression he’s made in his career already.”
A regular role as the Stoke lone forward will surely see Diouf priced favourably across the Fantasy games – available for 7.0 in the Sky Sports game, a ceiling of around 6.5 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) seems likely. The recent release of the Premier League fixture list for 2014/15 bodes well for the Potters’ chances of getting off to a strong start. Stoke face only one of last term’s top five in the first 12 Gameweeks, with Villa, Leicester, Newcastle, Swansea, West Ham and Burnley all paying visit over that run, in addition to trips to Hull, QPR and Sunderland.
Providing the Staffordshire outfit can take advantage of such a kind schedule, then, Diouf may well arrive on our radars as a cheap third forward option. If the likes of Marko Arnautovic or Odemwingie can replicate their end of season form, though, there may well be more viable alternatives amongst Hughes’ first-choice XI worth considering from the off.