Stoke chairman Peter Coates has refused to rule his club out of the running for Kenwyne Jones despite Sunderland boss Steve Bruce's claim that City cannot afford the striker.
Stoke and Birmingham are understood to be keen on Trinidad & Tobago star Jones, who cost the Black Cats £6million when he moved to Wearside from Southampton in August 2007.
Jones is arguably worth double that amount now, and in responding to the interest from the two clubs, Bruce said: "No disrespect to Stoke or Birmingham, but can they afford him? I very much doubt it.
"It's not just the fee, but wages, all the rest of it. I just can't see it."
Coates, who has consistently backed boss Tony Pulis in the transfer market, has yet to enter into any talks with Sunderland over Jones, who spent three months on loan with City at the end of the 2004-05 season.
Responding to Bruce's swipe, Coates told the Stoke Sentinel: "I don't know what they want for him, so I can't say whether we can afford him or not.
"Until I know what he (Bruce) is looking for, it's impossible to say if he's right in what he is saying.
"We've had no talks with them and so no figures have been mentioned. I don't know what sort of deal might be available.
"If he's looking for what he thinks we regard as silly money, then he would be right.
"But it's not a case of what we can afford, it's a case of what we regard as good value.
"We are in the phoney war at the moment, when we are seeing what's happening in the market place."Reuse content