Stoke have finally admitted that their in-demand goalkeeper, Asmir Begovic, could be sold.
The Potters bought highly-rated young England international ‘keeper Jack Butland last season, in a clear sign that they were planning for life without Begovic.
Butland had his pick of a host of top teams, but opted to move to the Britannia Stadium.
With the world at his feet, he would not have made the move without assurances that his career would advance there. But for now, Begovic- one of the Premier League’s most steady shot-stoppers- stands in Butland’s way.
Up until this point, Stoke have insisted that Begovic is not on the market, deflecting initial interest from Chelsea, and more ardent recent attention from Liverpool.
The Reds in particular are reportedly keen to get their claws on Begovic, with Barcelona understood to have designs on Pepe Reina.
Spanish international Reina has gone on record to say he is happy at Anfield, but would find it hard to resist the advances of his boyhood club should they put the moves on him.
And so Begovic has become Liverpool’s first-choice option to replace Reina if he leaves, even while Stoke were adamant their gloveman was not for sale.
But now Stoke have given Begovic’s suitors cause to hope, suggesting that while they would prefer the 25-year-old Bosnian international to stay, the right amount of money could smooth the way for his exit from the Potteries.
"Asmir is a super professional," Stoke’s owner Peter Coates said.
"We like him very much. He is a top, top goalkeeper. I think he is as good as anybody in the Premier League.
"But he is also ambitious. If top clubs come for your players, I do not think you can deny them the opportunity. That is my view.
"But it would depend very much on the money being right. We are not looking to sell him. We are not expecting to sell him. We expect him to be our goalkeeper next season."