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 By PA Sport

Shaqiri worth 'hell of a lot more' than when Stoke bought him - Hughes

Xherdan Shaqiri is making his £12 million transfer fee look like a bargain, according to Stoke boss Mark Hughes.

The playmaker became the Potters' record signing when they pulled off a coup by tempting him to the Premier League from Inter Milan in the summer of 2015.

Shaqiri struggled for consistency during his first two seasons but has taken his performances up a notch this campaign, scoring twice and providing four direct assists.

The 26-year-old also shone during Switzerland's World Cup qualifying playoff victory over Northern Ireland, and Hughes believes he is showing the benefits of Premier League experience.

The Stoke manager said of the fee: "In the current market it doesn't look a significant amount. For us it was still significant money.

"But you'd have to say -- not that we are encouraging or advocating that we want to sell him -- he'd be worth a hell of a lot more than that if he was back on the market.

"We've all seen the difference in his decision-making and its impact on the team. Sometimes maybe through the [previous] seasons that sustained impact wasn't quite there.

"It was all about getting used to the Premier League obviously, and understanding who he was up against.

Xherdan Shaqiri has two goals and four assists so far for Stoke City this campaign.

"For the most part, he knows almost everybody in this league now, he knows their strengths and weaknesses, he knows how to affect opposition players.

"He is taking on more the role of the main instigator of our attacking threat. I think the whole team responds to that, you sense that maybe something's going to happen. I think the crowd senses it as well, and I know opposition teams sense it too.

"Since he's come back in pre-season, he's been first class. I don't know what it is but he came back with a real focus of making sure he was going to have a good season. And he's sustained it.''

There were eyebrows raised when Shaqiri, who played for Bayern Munich prior to Inter, moved to Stoke, with many foreign observers claiming he had sold himself short.

Hughes accepts there will still be doubters but believes club and player have proved it is a good match.

"To a lesser extent those people are probably still out there,'' he said. "But I think people understand now he is at a good Premier League club.

"A club that consistently go up against some of the top teams in Europe, and, not withstanding the Manchester City game, we've done okay against the high-profile teams.

"That's what resonates abroad, and when Shaq is playing well against those teams, then people maybe think he's not at such a bad club as people thought. That's credit to him.''

Hughes will hope Shaqiri continues his fine form when the Potters visit Brighton on Monday looking to make it three games unbeaten.

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