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Owen left in limbo

Michael Owen faces an anxious wait to discover whether the Premier League will sanction his move to Stoke because the Potters had 25 senior professionals on their books before he put pen to paper.

• Stoke sign Owen

Owen agreed a one-year pay-as-you-play contract at the Britannia Stadium on Tuesday, just prior to the Premier League deadline for clubs to submit their 25-man squads for the first half of the season.

However, because he was signed after the August 31 transfer deadline, the move will be a test of rules brought in two years ago, partly to ensure clubs do not build up a huge number of senior professionals.

A Premier League club can only sign a free agent - which Owen is - if they have an unused place in their 25-man squad. More importantly, it is against the regulations to leave a space open for a free agent if a club has 25 or more senior professionals registered.

Although Stoke boss Tony Pulis moved Jonathan Woodgate, Ricardo Fuller and Salif Diao on over the summer, he also brought in Michael Kightly, Steven Nzonzi, Maurice Edu, Charlie Adam and Geoff Cameron as players aged over 21.

The only way Stoke had any chance of registering Owen after the transfer deadline was to bring him in before Tuesday's registration cut-off point and name him in their 25-man squad.

But the Premier League could now decide that the club tried to circumnavigate the transfer window and the squad system to register Owen and leave one of their other contracted players out in the cold.

Anyone not named in the 25-man squad will only be able to play in the League Cup for the remainder of the year. It is not possible to send a player out on a short-term loan to create a squad place.

The Premier League board is now set to meet to discuss the situation and decide whether Owen should be allowed to play for Stoke.

Stoke chairman Peter Coates is expecting Owen to prove Sir Alex Ferguson wrong for allowing him to leave Manchester United if his registration is processed.

"We are very pleased. Michael is a good guy and a natural goalscorer. He is also a very proud guy," said Coates. "He might feel he's been written off and I think he might have a point to prove.

"He's always got goals, it's natural to him. It's a one year deal we have agreed and then we will look at it. His pedigree is well known. He is a wonderful footballer and I don't see why he hasn't got a lot of football left in him.

"Goalscorers are born not made. It is instinctive and Michael Owen has the skill that you can't coach. He has always had that gift. I saw him play for Liverpool against Stoke reserves at Southport when he was about 16. People were talking about this young player and he has certainly gone on to make his mark."

Coates has bankrolled the club for the last few years and made some impressive signings, but the arrival of Owen represents the highest profile star he has attracted to the Britannia Stadium.

But he insists Owen's £25,000-a-week contract is no gimmick signing and added: "We don't sign players to raise our profile. We sign them to make us a better team and give us a better squad and I hope it works out well for him."


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