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May 1, 2013

Pulis: Begovic is better than De Gea

Tony Pulis' task of preventing Asmir Begovic from leaving for Manchester United this summer has been made harder after his claims that the Bosnian is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League.

• Whittaker: All but safe

Stoke City manager Pulis is convinced Begovic should have been in the PFA Premier League team of the season - ahead of United's David de Gea.

United are leading the scramble to sign Begovic, but face competition from Manchester City, Arsenal and Barcelona, who have all made enquiries over the last few months and Pulis is far from surprised at the level of interest in his goalkeeper, who he feels should have been recognised by his peers, ahead of De Gea.

"I think he has been consistently the best goalkeeper in the Premier League this season. He has been different class for us. I think the experience he's got from playing games regularly has been the biggest factor," Pulis said.

"Asmir has had a full run at the team this season and grown in stature because of it. There is no substitute for playing games and that's why I would always encourage youngsters at this football club to go out and play league football to gain experience."

Pulis hopes the fact Stoke are virtually certain to be in the Premier League again next season will give him more of a chance of persuading Begovic to remain with the club, despite the interest from so many top clubs.

Begovic's asking price will be around £15 million and Pulis is determined to keep him for at least one more season, while young England goalkeeper Jack Butland settles into life in the top flight, following his £3.5 million move from Birmingham City.

Pulis is thought to have reservations on throwing Butland, who only made his Championship debut this season, straight into the Premier League firing line, should he allow Begovic to leave this summer.

Meanwhile, Pulis has warned his players not to relax after virtually assuring Premier League safety by reaching 40 points, with last weekend's victory over Norwich City, especially as Stoke can still have a say in the relegation issue.

Stoke travel to Sunderland, who are deep in trouble following their embarrassing 6-1 defeat by Aston Villa and Pulis said: "We have to make sure we keep winning and keep picking up points.

"We've got 40 points, which is the benchmark, but that doesn't mean we stop trying to get points. The season is far from over. I'm just pleased the lads kept their nerve the way they did. People were panicking and newspapers predicting the end of the world, but the players held their nerve."

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