Stoke City captain Ryan Shawcross has explained he was “surprised” Liverpool sold Joe Allen to the Potters in the summer.
Shawcross leads his side to Anfield on December 27, and Mark Hughes will be hoping for another excellent performance from his summer signing.
Allen joined in a deal worth £13 million in July, after opting to leave Liverpool in search of first-team football, and has since found top form in his new role in the Stoke midfield.
With five goals and four assists, Allen is Stoke’s leading goalscorer and creator, and having scored seven and assisted five in 132 games for the Reds, this 18-game tally is a significant improvement.
This comes after an outstanding string of displays for Wales at the European Championship, and this led to Shawcross’ shock at Stoke sealing their bargain acquisition.
“After such a brilliant Euros I was surprised we got him,” he told the Stoke Sentinel.
“I thought Liverpool would have kept him, especially after the summer, and when I heard we were going to get him I was surprised.
“For the amount of money as well, it’s a great signing for the club.
“He’s an even better player than I thought. I’ve always rated him but I didn’t realise he was so good. He’s been our best player this season, our catalyst.”
Allen played a conservative role during his spell with Liverpool, knitting midfield and attack and utilising his fine close control and passing ability.
But this has changed at Stoke, as Shawcross explained that he “sets us off defensively and attacking wise.”
“It was obviously a bit stop-start for him at Liverpool, he never really got a full run in the team, but since he’s come to our place he’s shown just what a good player he is,” he added.
“He scores the goals and gets assists but he’s also very good defensively.
“He works ridiculously hard, starts our pressing, and he’s our main player.
“Hopefully he can put a good performance in, as the team can. I’m sure he’ll be desperate to prove the manager wrong.”
Klopp showed his admiration for Allen throughout his time as his manager on Merseyside, and the notion of the midfielder proving him wrong is a wayward one.
The German moved to sign Georginio Wijnaldum as Allen’s replacement, and the £25 million man has added another dimension to Liverpool’s midfield, with industry, mobility and physicality.
They will likely come head-to-head at Anfield two days after Christmas, with the Reds looking for their third win in a row.