Stoke City target Michael Owen pay-as-you-play deal
TONY Pulis was going full steam ahead to try to make Michael Owen his seventh summer signing today.
But the Stoke boss is warning Owen he will have to accept a kind of pay-as-you-play deal because of the former England striker's poor fitness record in recent years.
Pulis wants former Liverpool and Manchester United striker Owen – out of contract and therefore a free agent – signed by tomorrow's 5pm deadline for submitting Premier League squads of up to 25 names.
"I would love to sign Michael," he said. "If we can do it, we will do it, and do it on the basis that we did with Jonathan Woodgate and players like that.
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"If he's in the team he will get paid, and if he isn't he won't get paid so much."
Stoke could face competition for Owen's signature from the likes of Sunderland following their failure to capture Clint Dempsey.
But with Owen's horse racing stables just a few miles away at Malpas, Stoke are hoping that will persuade him to opt for them if any kind of bidding war takes place.
Pulis has already swooped for Geoff Cameron, Steven Nzonzi, Maurice Edu, Charlie Adam, Jamie Ness and Michael Kightly.
And he said a seventh signing would help Stoke keep pace with their big-spending Premier League rivals following widespread deadline-day activity on Friday.
"If you look at what other clubs have spent, especially those around us," he argued, "this will be our hardest season yet."
He was also keen to emphasise Stoke's relatively low pay roll, adding: "Our wage bill is one of the best in the Premier League, let's put that straight.
"The way the club is run financially is absolutely first-class. We don't pay the excessive money that other clubs pay and that is a credit to the way the Coates family run it."
And, with question marks still hovering over the futures of players like Kenwyne Jones and Danny Higginbotham, he denied there had to be a major exodus of senior players over the next few weeks.
"We've only got 25 players. I think we had 32, 33 for Europe last season, so we haven't got that many to get rid of."
Meanwhile, Pulis hinted at an Adam and Nzonzi midfield partnership by praising the former's debut n the 2-2 draw at Wigan on Saturday and the latter's arrival from Blackburn late on Friday.
"I'm pleased with that one," he said of 23-year-old Nzonzi. "He's a young player who's a very, very good passer of the ball. He keeps it ticking over and doesn't give it away.
"Charlie did smashing. He can keep the ball and play it simple. We are creating the chances, it's just taking them."
Match analysis and reaction: Pages 44 to 47