Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross is reportedly interesting a number of top Premier League clubs, including Manchester United and Tottenham. The 25 year old central defender has displayed excellent form this season and has been an important part of the Potters' strong defensive start to the season.
Tony Pulis' side have lost only one of the opening seven games in the league this season (0-1 at Stamford Bridge) and conceded only five goals in the process, which makes them the second-best defensive unit in the Premier League. With that kind of record, Shawcross is believed to be the answer to several top clubs' defensive problems. The defender has 18 months left on his present contract and while officials at the Britannia Stadium are likely to be unhappy at losing him, they may not have much choice in the matter.
United, for example, could sorely use a powerful centre back, good in the air and on the ground and with experience of English football, to cover for injuries to Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic. Shawcross would also be an excellent long-term replacement for either England international Rio Ferdinand or Serbian Vidic, who might be sold in the January transfer window.
Spurs too could use Shawcross in their back-line, given the injury to Frenchman Younes Kaboul, loss of Ledley King and the poor form of Michael Dawson. A central defensive partnership of Belgian Jan Vertonghen and the Stoke City stopper could be a very potent one for Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas.
Chelsea could also be in the hunt for Shawcross, who will probably take over ex-England international John Terry's place in Roberto Di Matteo's defence. Terry is still picking himself up from a racism scandal involving QPR's Anton Ferdinand and at 31, is in the final stages of his Blues' career.
There is one top club Shawcross can never ever transfer to, though. And that is Arsenal. Such is the hatred Gunners' fans have for the defender - who was involved in that infamous tackle which broke Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey's leg - no manager, even Arsene Wenger, could contemplate bringing him to the Emirates.
Shawcross' fine form over recent seasons (and this one particularly) saw him called up for the England national team, for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland. Although he failed to make his national debut in either game, remaining on the bench the whole time, Stoke City legend Mike Pejic (who earned four England caps) believes it can only be a matter of time before Shawcross forces Hodgson to play him.
"I cover every Stoke game for local commercial radio these days and have been very impressed with Ryan," Pejic was quoted by ESPN, adding, "Reading defensive situations and sensing danger are two of his strongest points. They are big assets. You need to be switched on and he works on his positional play off the ball. His tackling is good, so is his heading, and he recovers well, as we saw when he checked out and managed that brilliant clearance off the line in the last few seconds at home to Manchester City recently."
Incidentally, Shawcross remains eligible to play for Wales but given his relationship with Ramsey, it is unlikely that will happen, despite the Arsenal player admitting he would not object to playing alongside the defender.