Tony Pulis admits there is nothing he could do to prevent Ryan Shawcross leaving Stoke for a club of greater standing, as the centre-back is linked with a transfer to Manchester United.
Stoke are in the process of offering Shawcross a new long-term contract with Manchester United reported to be sniffing around the 25-year-old, who began his career at Old Trafford.
Shawcross left Manchester United for Stoke in a deal worth £1 million four years ago, but Sir Alex Ferguson is reported to be considering activating the buy-back option written into his Potters contract.
The Manchester United manager is planning for the future as Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand edge towards the end of their careers with the club, and Shawcross would appear to be one candidate under consideration.
Pulis, meanwhile, is hoping Shawcross will remain a Stoke player for the rest of his time as a professional, but is realistic over the prospects of the club's chances of keeping him.
And the Stoke boss says he would not stand in the way of Shawcross, should a club like Manchester United come calling at some point in the future.
"We took Ryan as a young lad and he has grown with the football club, he has been fantastic for us, and the club has been fantastic for him as well," Pulis told reporters.
"Obviously any new deal has to be right for the club and for Ryan, and fingers crossed we can get it done, and we push on from there.
"We're hoping and praying Ryan will be a Stoke player for the rest of his life. But if a top-three, top-four club came in, and they paid the money, there is no way in a million years we would be able to prevent Ryan from going.
"It is a natural progression for every sportsman to play at the top level, but what we want to do is ensure we have him for the rest of his career because we're really happy with him."