According to Bolton News (h/t Stoke Sentinel), Bolton Wanderers have made the first move to keep Stoke City starlet Thibaud Verlinden at the Macron Stadium for the second half of the ongoing campaign.
The 20-year-old Belgian winger, who was loaned out to the Trotters back in the summer on a six-month deal until January, is set to return to the Bet365 stadium following the end of that agreement on January 4.
Speaking to Bolton News (h/t Stoke Sentinel), Bolton manager Keith Hill has admitted that he would love to have Verlinden back at the Macron Stadium for the second half of the season even if he goes back to Stoke City for an initial assessment by new manager Michael O’Neill.
As per the report, the Belgian is set to be assessed at close quarters by O’Neill in January when his loan spell at Bolton comes to an end and the Northern Irishman will then make a decision on his future.
The report adds that the Trotters management has held talks with Verlinden about returning on loan for the second half of the season but that will ultimately depend on what O’Neill decides is in the best interests of his development.
Born in Brussels, Belgium, Thibaud Verlinden started his footballing education at Club Brugge and spent five years in the youth ranks of Standard Liege before completing a move to Stoke City back in the summer of 2015, initially linking up with the U23s.
The 20-year-old largely featured for the Potters’ U23 side before making his senior professional debut in a 4-0 EFL Cup victory over Rochdale back in August 2017.
The Belgian was then loaned out to FC St. Pauli in the German second-tier to further his development before earning his league debut against Reading last year. However, Verlinden was once again loaned out to Bolton this past summer after clocking up only five appearances for Stoke City in the Championship last season.
Things have taken a positive turnaround for the youngster ever since his move to the Macron Stadium, with the 20-year-old enjoying considerable playtime in the League One under Keith Hill.
Despite Bolton struggling for existence at the bottom of the table, Verlinden has started on eight occasions for the Trotters in the league so far, scoring twice in the process.
As per whoscored, the Belgian starlet has averaged an impressive 2.3 dribbles and 2.3 shots per game, which are clear signs of the kind of progress that he has made over the past few months.
To put things into perspective, Stoke City need to assess him at close quarters when he returns to the Bet365 stadium in January upon the expiry on his loan agreement at Bolton but loaning him back to the Trotters looks like the best possible stance at the moment.
The 20-year-old has shown strong signs of promise over the course of his loan spell at the Macron stadium and given that he has been afforded enough game time, spending the entirety of the campaign on loan would provide him with the stability needed to further his development.
James McClean and Sam Clucas have been used in wide roles down the left by O’Neill since his appointment at the Bet365 stadium, and notwithstanding that the Potters lack specialist wide players capable of making a big impact, Verlinden still has some way to go before he can possibly play a substantial role for the club in the Championship.
Indeed, his chances of playing regularly at Bolton certainly look better than his chances at Stoke City, especially with the Potters struggling for survival in the second-tier.
Verlinden is still very much in his formative years as a professional footballer and he needs to play regularly in order to hone his skills and maximise his potential, something that can be better achieved at Bolton rather than Stoke City at the moment.
Of course, the 20-year-old has a big future at the Bet365 stadium but regular minutes should be of paramount importance for his development at this stage of his career.
To that end, learning his trade under Keith Hill in the League One for another six months could go a long way towards helping him make a smoother transition to a more competitive league in the future.
In fact, O’Neill would be well within his rights to give him a go in the Championship once he returns from his loan spell in January and then decide on his future, given that all clubs will be allowed to loan or buy players until January 31.
Having said that, Stoke City loaning out Thibaud Verlinden to Bolton Wanderers for another six months seems to make perfect sense for all parties involved.
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