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MARKO ARNAUTOVIC, who had previously plied his trade at the highest level in Holland, Italy and Germany gradually grew into a fans' favourite after arriving in the summer of 2013.
The Austrian international, who can play either as a winger or as a striker, has become a main figure of creativity in Mark Hughes' side since arriving from Werder Bremen for an undisclosed fee.
'Arnie' impressed with his technique, pace and crossing ability that soon made him an instrumental player in Stoke's modified front line, after a steady start, a wonderful free kick at Old Trafford some scintillating displays impressed manager Mark Hughes. Three goals in the final three months of the season were highlights as Marko added goals to his game, certainly playing his best football at the end of the campaign.
It was harder for Arnautovic to keep his place in the side last season, with the return of Oussama Assaidi along with the arrival of Victor Moses from Chelsea. Moses' displays kept him out of the team for some of the first half of the campaign, however injuries for Nigerian and Assaidi's January departure meant Arnautovic returned to the team in the latter half to recreate the same sort of performances that saw him held in such high regard during his first season in the Potteries. Twenty league starts means consistency will be Marko's mission this season.
Arnautovic launched his professional career in Holland with FC Twente, making his debut as a substitute against PSV Eindhoven in April 2007.
The following year he signed a contract extension with Twente, despite reports of interest from Feyenoord, but in 2009 – after scoring 12 goals in 44 league appearances for Twente - he left Holland to join Inter Milan on loan.
He spent the 2009-10 season on loan at the San Siro but struggled to make an impact in Serie A and made only three appearances for Jose Mourinho's Inter.
Arnautovic was on the move again in the summer of 2010 as he joined German outfit Bremen on a four-year deal.
He scored 14 goals in 72 Bundesliga appearances – including a hat-trick at Hoffenheim – and was also on target against Inter in the Champions League.
Arnautovic is a key figure at international level for his country. He won the first of his caps in 2008 and has scored several times for Austria as well.