Mark Hughes appears increasingly pessimistic regarding Stoke City's chances of completing a deal for out-of-favour West Bromwich Albion striker Saido Berahino before the end of the January transfer window, with negotiations seemingly remaining at a stalemate.
Stoke were unsuccessful with a £20m ($24.6m) bid for the player last summer and they have rekindled their long-standing interest this month. Berahino, whose current deal is due to expire in June, is said to have rejected a third bumper contract offer that would have reportedly seen West Brom increase his weekly wage to approximately £60,000-per-week. That proposal came despite the 23-year-old having not played a first-team match since September and twice visited a French conditioning camp in a bid to improve his fitness.
"It sways from one end of the scale to another, to be perfectly honest," Hughes said at a pre-Manchester United press conference on Friday (20 January) when questioned as to his confidence over sealing the signing of Berahino. "I said last week or the week before that I was more confident that something might be done. It's fair to say we've probably swung the other way again.
"The last few days it hasn't really progressed. I think there were reports that it was progressing well, but I'd question that because I don't think that's the case. There hasn't been any progress for quite some time. If I'm honest, it doesn't look like there's going to be too much progress in the following days. I might be wrong, things might change very quickly, but people seem to be very entrenched in their views and their positions. When that happens it's difficult to move it forward."
Hughes admitted that price was an issue among other things in terms of negotiations for Berahino. Speaking at his own media call shortly afterwards, West Brom manager Tony Pulis, believed to be pursuing Watford's Odion Ighalo as a replacement, admitted that the Baggies had received a bid from Stoke but dismissed it as "nowhere near what we want".
In terms of outgoings, Hughes, now searching for his 50th Premier League win as Potters boss, admitted that defender Marc Muniesa was frustrated over a lack of regular football amid sustained interest from Real Betis. He also insisted that there had been no bids for Bojan Krkic, who has emerged as a priority target for Middlesbrough and Aitor Karanka.
"We saw something in the press saying that if there was an opportunity, he would like to leave," Hughes said. "He hasn't said that to me. At the end of the day he's our player, he's involved in the squad tomorrow so he's part of what we're doing. I think there probably has been enquiries, but nobody's come back with any bids. We wouldn't encourage them, to be perfectly honest, but if they do come in with bids then maybe Bojan or his advisors would maybe want to discuss that. But we're not at that point at the moment."
Stoke have no fresh injury concerns to contend with ahead of the visit of Jose Mourinho's Manchester United to the bet365 Stadium, with Bojan back in the fold as mentioned. However, Jon Walters is not yet ready to return from knee surgery and goalkeeper Jack Butland will likely remain on crutches for another week. Geoff Cameron was expected to return to training on Friday after a medial collateral ligament injury, but Steven Ireland remains out. Wilfried Bony, Mame Biram Diouf and Ramadan Sobhi are all in Gabon on Africa Cup of Nations duty.