Stoke City manager Mark Hughes admits the club were surprised Joe Allen was allowed to join them from Liverpool during the summer. The 26-year-old will return to Anfield for the first time since the switch over the festive period, when the Merseysiders host the Potters on 27 December.
Allen played a bit-part for the Reds during Jurgen Klopp's first spell in charge but impressed at the European Championships with Wales, who reached the semi-final of a major international competition for the first time in their history. The ex-Swansea City midfielder was named in the team of the tournament alongside compatriot Aaron Ramsey during a memorable summer for Chris Coleman's side.
He would go on to join Stoke for £13m ($16m), as reported by The Guardian, in July and has since been a revelation since leaving Liverpool. Allen has already scored five goals in the Premier League this season to help Hughes' side into a comfortable place in mid-table, and the Welshman remains stunned that Klopp allowed Allen to move to the Britannia Stadium
"I had admired Joe Allen from afar for a long time, and obviously his time at Anfield was frustrating for him," he told a pre-match press conference, according to Stoke's official website. "It was only by a virtue of not playing week in week out that we managed to get him here. We were quite surprised that Liverpool were allowing him to leave after the European Championships, but I think they had other irons in the fire which allowed us to take Joe.
"They [Liverpool] clearly were happy to do the deal and so were we. If you look at his performances since he arrived here they have been outstanding. We are delighted with the deal that was brokered. We decided to move him into a more attacking role, having seen his qualities, especially his anticipation, in training.
"Logically, because he can anticipate things in a more defensive role we thought he could anticipate them in the penalty area too. I think he could go close to getting double figures this year which would be fantastic for us. If we can get a midfielder scoring 10 goals then that would significantly help us.
"I think Joe will want to do well when he goes back there, that is natural. He has nothing to prove though in fairness, I know that he was appreciated there by supporters and players alike. A lot of supporters expressed surprise when they allowed him to leave and I would expect him to receive a tremendous reception on the 27th."
Stoke will be without five players due to injury when they travel to Liverpool next week. Marc Muniesa, Phil Bardsley, Jack Butland and Stephen Ireland have all been ruled out, while Hughes has confirmed the game also comes too soon for Geoff Cameron. "Geoff is still a few weeks away too," he added. "He has a schedule and a plan to work to which is helping him, and we expect him back in the new year."