Stoke's Assaidi open-minded about future

Oussama Assaidi has stressed he is keeping an open mind about his future as his eye-catching form for Stoke continues.

Oussama Assaidi

The winger, who in August joined the Staffordshire outfit from Liverpool on loan until the end of the season, scored his fourth Potters goal in the 1-1 New Year's Day home draw with Everton, and third in their last six Barclays Premier League matches.

Each of those strikes have been fine finishes - most notably, a winner against Chelsea - and Assaidi has received messages from Reds boss Brendan Rodgers letting him know his progress is not going unnoticed at Anfield.

But that does not necessarily mean the Morocco international will be heading back to Liverpool when the campaign finishes.

"I don't know what is going to happen with me," Assaidi said.

"Sometimes Brendan Rodgers texts me, but I don't know.

"I am very happy here, because (Stoke manager) Mark Hughes has made me better, giving me a lot of confidence and letting me do my job the way I want to.

"Everyone at the club seems to like me. We will see at the end of the year what happens."

Rodgers signed Assaidi for Liverpool from Dutch side Heerenveen in the summer of 2012 and the 25-year-old subsequently made just four appearances, all as a substitute, for the Reds in the Premier League last term, as well as featuring eight times in cup competitions.

He was initially being used quite sparingly by Hughes this season, but since coming off the bench to score the goal against Chelsea in early December, Assaidi has been a permanent fixture in the Stoke first XI.

He added: "He (Rodgers) texts me sometimes if I score, saying 'well done', 'keep going' and 'I am hearing good things about you'.

"But I love to play here for Stoke because they have given me a chance."

Assaidi's goal against Everton, which was cancelled out by Leighton Baines' stoppage-time penalty, came in the 49th minute when he collected the ball from a failed attempt at a clearance by John Stones and smashed it past Tim Howard from the edge of the box.

Other than that error, Stones looked solid on what was his first Premier League start.

The 19-year-old England Under-21 international partnered Antolin Alcaraz in the centre of Everton's defence in the absence of injured pair Sylvain Distin and club captain Phil Jagielka.

And while Stones is grateful for the positive influence Jagielka has had on him, he is also keen to push the 31-year-old for his first-team birth when he is fit again.

Stones, recruited from Barnsley around a year ago, told the Liverpool Echo: "There's always little things that Jags will tell me or I see him doing in training that I pick up on - if it's positionally or even a pass I see him playing. Things like that.

"His experience is rubbing off on me and I can't thank him enough for that.

"I just need to take my chance now and embrace it.

"I want to give the manager (Roberto Martinez) a problem to choose his side when Jags is back fit. That's all I can do really."

Certainly Martinez is sure Stones has a big career ahead of him.

"He is going to be one of the best defenders in the English game," the Spaniard said.

"I knew he was ready and I couldn't be happier with his performance - even him clearing the final corner of the game shows you that he is a born leader.

"I think we are going to see something special in his career."

Stones can also play at right-back, but asked if centre-back was his natural position, Martinez said: "Yes, it is.

"He has played right-back many times, but he has everything to be a good, modern centre-half - someone who is good on the ball, good in the air and who can read the game exceptionally well.

"More importantly, he has that leader inside him."

Everton slipped from fourth to fifth in the table following Wednesday's result, while Stoke stayed 12th.

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