Hughes has embarked on a major recruitment drive since taking over as manager at the Britannia Stadium in 2013, with players rated as some of the hottest prospects in Europe choosing to complete a move to the Potteries.
Afellay, another former Barca alumni to join the club following Bojan and Marc Muniesa, completed his move to Stoke earlier this summer and he feels that Hughes is the reason behind the eye-catching moves, while also crediting the job that the former Manchester United striker has done.
Indeed, the 29-year-old believes that there is a "big, big difference" between Hughes' side and the team built by Tony Pulis.
"A throw-in was like a corner kick. The ball came into the box and then - fight," Afellay told the Daily Mirror.
"Now they have a project, a new philosophy and they try to play football. It's not like the years before."
The Dutchman added: "I've only been here a short time but it's a fantastic club. The manager in this case is the most important because he decides how a team wants to play. You can see that we are a team who tries to play football."
In Afellay, Shaqiri, Bojan, Muniesa and Marko Arnautovic, Hughes has five players in his squad who have lifted the Champions League trophy, but Afellay has reserved special praise for the Switzerland international.
"He's a great player. He is a big signing for us," Afellay said when asked about Shaqiri.
"We were disappointed he couldn't play at Tottenham, but we did well and look forward to the next game he can play."