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Stoke throw last-minute wrench in Given move to Middlesbrough

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Shay Given was expected to move to Middlesbrough on a free today, but Stoke have other plans.

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Shay Given has spent the last four years at Aston Villa. In that time the club have tried to dump him a couple of times but never found any takers thanks to Given's enormous wages. Well now, just as it seemed Villa had finally found one suitor for the keeper, another has emerged.

It came out late last night that Given looked poised to complete a free transfer to Middlesbrough, where he spent parts of the 2013-14 season on loan. Sure, Villa wouldn't be getting any money but they'd be getting his wages off the books, and that was probably a good thing. But now, according to John Percy of the Telegraph, Stoke have decided they want in on the Given action.

The move could be linked to the fact that Stoke look likely to lose Asmir Begovic this summer. The Bosnian has been linked to Manchester United, Chelsea, and Aston Villa. Maybe there is some sort of a plot of a Shay Given plus cash swap to secure the services of Begovic.

If that's the case, Villa should jump at the opportunity. Begovic is a very good keeper, and the chance to bring him in could help the club a lot. I'm not sure if he's necessarily better than Brad Guzan, but he's definitely better than either Given or third-choice keeper Jed Steer. And with Guzan's terrible distribution seemingly keeping him out of Tim Sherwood's favor, Begovic would likely come in as the new first-choice keeper.

But regardless of what eventually happens, if Villa lose Given, it will certainly spark the search for a new keeper of some sort (either starter or backup). Having Given leave and Begovic come in would probably be both the best and tidiest way to sew up this business, so I'm certainly hoping that's what's afoot.