Stoke City: Manchester City eye Asmir Begovic
STOKE City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic is attracting serious interest from Premier League champions Manchester City.
The Sentinel understands that their hierarchy see Begovic as providing viable competition for their England goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Any move is likely to come in the summer, at the earliest, after Stoke boss Tony Pulis ruled out selling any of his top players in January.
But City's interest can only bump up Begovic's asking price and make it increasingly difficult for Stoke to reject any offer.
Begovic, who joined three years ago for just over £3m from Portsmouth, has risen to prominence after establishing himself as Stoke's number one nearly 12 months ago.
Whether the 25-year-old Bosnian could oust Hart at The Etihad, however, is a consideration that could deter him from making that move.
That, realistically, only leaves a handful of more attractive and wealthier clubs likely to be interested in his services.
They could include Manchester United and that could trigger a tug-of-war between the two clubs as early as the next close season.
Begovic's exit would also leave boss Tony Pulis with the problem of finding a ready-made replacement as age threatens to rule out 36-year-old Thomas Sorensen as the club's long-term number one.
Stoke and Man City meet in the FA Cup on Saturday, but Begovic is unlikely to feature after Sorensen played in the last round of the competition against Crystal Palace.
Meanwhile, Stoke's hopes of signing American international Brek Shea have hit a major snag that could scupper the deal in this transfer window.
Stoke and FC Dallas had made good progress on agreeing a fee – thought to be in the region of £2m should the deal go ahead.
But the fee also has to be ratified by Major League Soccer under American rules and that is threatening to put a spanner in the works.
The MLS is inclined to put a greater value on Shea because he is 22 and full of potential.
Stoke will be wary of his fitness record in recent times, however, including a recent operation to remove a bone from his right foot.
Pulis had been keen to see Shea in action during a week's training at the club before deciding whether to take the plunge, but the player was not at Clayton Wood yesterday.
Pulis remains interested in the American market and so Shea, along with other possible new signings, could be making the trip over the Atlantic in the summer to join compatriot Geoff Cameron at the Britannia.
Michael Owen, fresh from his first goal for the club at Swansea on Saturday, was expected to feature in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Derby County today.
Stoke fans are reminded that tickets for Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round tie at home to Manchester City (12.45pm) go on general sale from today priced £20 for adults, £10 for over-65s and £5 for under-17s.
Man City have sold their allocation of just under 4,500.
GLENN Whelan and Jon Walters are in the Ireland squad for their friendly against Poland in Dublin on February 6.