David James will only join Stoke City on loan until the end of the season because the 39-year-old believes that he can win a new contract in the Premier League in the summer on the back of what he hopes will be a successful World Cup finals with England.
The England goalkeeper, who turns 40 in August, is on a deal at Portsmouth that means when he plays 20 matches this season he automatically triggers a new 12-month contract extension. In their dire financial state Portsmouth cannot afford his £2m a year wages next season, especially if they end up in the Championship, so the club and James' advisers have been working on a solution that will enable him to go on loan.
James has already played 12 games this season, and will not be allowed to play beyond 19 games. He will sign on loan at Stoke to the end of the season to win his place back for England, for whom he has not played since April.
It was planned that the deal would be announced yesterday but hold-ups at the Portsmouth end have prevented that. James may yet play against former club Liverpool on Saturday. Stoke manager Tony Pulis said: "We would be signing a goalkeeper of real quality, and if he comes here he has a few months' football to play.
"[Thomas] Sorensen has done brilliantly, so they will both be fighting for that one spot, but he [James] has something to prove as well. He'll want to be on that plane to South Africa, and that attracts me to him more than anything else."