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Hughes: N'Zonzi key to plans

Stoke City boss Mark Hughes has played down suggestions midfielder Steven N'Zonzi might leave the club this summer.

N'Zonzi, who is back in Stoke's first team after being left on the subs' bench during February, was non-committal over his future in the Potteries in an interview with The Sentinel.

He said: "You never know in football, so I cannot answer that. Everybody is talking about what will happen next season, but as a player you do not know."

The Frenchman had a transfer request rejected at the end of last season but Hughes is keen that he sees out the four-year deal he signed in the summer of 2012 and sees him as a key player in his squad.

"I think he is enjoying his football at the moment," Hughes said.

"I have seen quotes in recent articles and I think all he is saying is that, like all the guys at the club, he is concentrating on getting to the end of the season, making sure we get as many points as we can and seeing where it takes us.

"We are trying to build the club and build the team, and he is very much integral to that process."

Hughes was further asked if he saw N'Zonzi - who reportedly asked for a move from previous club Blackburn as well - as a troublemaker but he swiftly rejected that assertion.

"No. Steven sometimes gets frustrated with himself, and probably too much so, but I think he is maturing as a player and a person," Hughes added.

"He understood when he did go out of the team that him not getting back in was through no fault of his own - it was just a consequence of the players who had come in doing well.

"But as soon as he got back in the team he performed well, his level was high and as a consequence he stayed in, and that is how I like it to be."