Mark Hughes lauded the performances of Joe Allen this season and expressed his surprise that Liverpool allowed the midfielder to join Stoke City.
Allen impressed in Wales' run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, but subsequently departed Anfield to link up with compatriot Hughes at the bet365 Stadium.
Stoke travel to Allen's old club on Tuesday and Hughes was fulsome in his praise of the 26-year-old, whose five Premier League goals this season are more than he managed in the past four campaigns combined.
"I had admired Joe Allen from afar for a long time and obviously his time at Anfield was frustrating for him," said Hughes.
"It was only by a virtue of not playing week in week out that we managed to get him here.
"We were quite surprised that Liverpool were allowing him to leave after the European Championships, but I think they had other irons in the fire which allowed us to take Joe.
"They clearly were happy to do the deal and so were we. If you look at his performances since he arrived here they have been outstanding. We are delighted with the deal that was brokered.
"I think Joe will want to do well when he goes back there, that is natural. He has nothing to prove though in fairness, I know that he was appreciated there by supporters and players alike.
"A lot of supporters expressed surprise when they allowed him to leave and I would expect him to receive a tremendous reception on the 27th."
Hughes also revealed that Ibrahim Afellay was back in contention after eight months out with a knee injury, although Geoff Cameron and Phil Bardsley (both knee) are not yet ready to return.
"Ibrahim Afellay played last Friday [for the Under-23s] and came through the game strongly, so he is now back in the squad and available for selection," added Hughes.
"I am delighted he has come back as strongly as he has because he suffered a really bad injury. He looks like the old Afellay which is tremendous because usually when players come back they are a little apprehensive. I have no qualms of including him now."