JOE ALLEN’S stunning showing for Wales during their run to the Semi-Finals of this summer’s European Championship was proof of just why former Liverpool boss dubbed the midfielder as the ‘Welsh Xavi’ upon his arrival at Anfield.
The talented and highly-regarded central midfielder became Mark Hughes’ second pre-season acquisition on Monday afternoon after completing the formalities of his £13m move to the bet365 Stadium.
Arguably Wales’ outstanding performer in France, the 26-year-old was linked with the likes of Manchester United and Sevilla prior to the Potters swooping in for his signature just a couple of weeks after being named in the EURO 2016 team of the tournament.
A player blessed with technical ability, Allen began his playing career in his homeland with Swansea City, for whom he blossomed into one of their star performers as they firstly won promotion to the top-flight and then established themselves within the elite.
It was in the final match of the 2006/07 campaign that the midfield technician was handed his senior debut, with Roberto Martinez introducing the youth team player from the bench late on in the Swans’ clash with Blackpool.
His impressive cameo appearance, together with his impressive showings at Academy level, led to the Welshman earning himself his maiden professional contract at the Liberty Stadium in August 2007.
A loan spell in North Wales with Wrexham continued to aid his development, however an ankle injury hampered his stay at the Racecourse Ground and he eventually returned back to Swansea shortly after, before his career really began to blossom.
Martinez began to call upon Allen’s services more frequently during the 2008/09 Championship campaign with the midfield maestro netting his first goal for the club in sensational style against fierce rivals Cardiff City in April 2009 and then earning himself a first ever international cap for Wales just four weeks later.
Despite the Swans narrowly missing out on the Play-Offs, just a year after winning promotion from League One, Allen’s contribution failed to go unnoticed as he was named as the Young Player of the Year at the end of season awards ceremony.
Another campaign of progression followed despite missing out on the top six for a second successive term, this time under the guidance of Paolo Sousa, but under Brendan Rodgers just 12 months later, the club’s dreams finally became a reality, with Allen playing an instrumental role.
Making 43 appearances throughout the campaign, he was a pivotal member of the squad, with many labelling him as the most impressive performer not just at the Liberty Stadium, but throughout the Championship.
The Premier League was always going to be a challenge to club and player, but they both made the transition with relative ease with Allen even managing to net a career best tally of four goals, and capping a wonderful debut top-flight season with a second Young Player of the Year accolade.
His form was rewarded ahead of the 2012 Olympics in London after being selected to feature in Team GBs football squad, for whom he lined up alongside the likes of Ryan Giggs and current Potters number one Jack Butland.
He continued to enhance his reputation with several impressive showings at the games, leading to a transfer battle between several of Europe’s biggest sides including French side Paris St Germain and Liverpool.
It was the Reds, managed by Allen’s former boss at Swansea Rodgers, who ultimately won the race for his signature - acquiring his services for a fee in the region of £15m during the summer transfer window.
He made his Liverpool debut on the opening day of the 2012/13 season against West Bromwich Albion and was named man of the match by supporters and pundits on his Anfield bow against Manchester City seven days later.
Allen scored the first of seven goals for Liverpool in an FA Cup victory over Oldham in January, 2013, before ending his first season with the club having made 37 appearances in all competitions, scoring two goals.
In total, he made 129 appearances for the club and featured prominently throughout the 2013/14 season, one that very nearly culminated in him picking up a Premier League winners medal - heartbreakingly losing out to eventual champions Manchester City by two points.