Asmir Begovic is flattered to be linked with Manchester United, but has Sir Alex Ferguson already got a superior goalkeeper in his current squad?
The Reds have been heavily linked with the Bosnian international, and reportedly had him watched in the 3-1 World Cup qualifying win over Greece last Friday night. This isn’t the first team the Premier League leaders have ran the rule over the 25-year-old, who has dislodged Thomas Sorensen to become undisputed first choice at Stoke City.
Begovic, who has also appeared for Portsmouth and in loan spells for Macclesfield Town, Bournemouth, Yeovil Town and Ipswich Town, admits he is flattered to be on United’s radar. And although he insists he remains fully committed to life at the Britannia Stadium, he can’t rule out a transfer when the window reopens.
“I’m not under more pressure because United is watching me, I’m glad that they do because that means I’m doing something good,” he told Sport.ba. “But as I said many times – I’m happy at Stoke City because they gave me a chance to play in Premier League. We will see what will happen in the summer. In football you can never know what will happen.”
Stoke have again struggled for goals this season, with only bottom club Queens Park Rangers (26) scoring less than their 27 so far. In contrast, they have conceded just 35 goals, a tally only four teams in the division can better. Whilst skipper Ryan Shawcross, Robert Huth and Geoff Cameron have featured heavily for the Potters this term, Begovic is their only defensive ever-present having started all 30 matches.
He may find this difficult to maintain next season when Jack Butland, the England international, pitches up. Tony Pulis spent £3.5million to fend off competition from rival clubs to sign the 20-year-old in January, then immediately shipped him back off to Birmingham City so he could continue to benefit from regular first team action.
There is a strong possibility that the youngster will remain at St Andrews next term, but at the same time, he is sure to be itching to prove himself in the top-flight, especially with the World Cup Finals on the agenda next summer. Butland has been billed as a genuine challenger for Joe Hart’s shirt in the long-term, and he accepts for him to edge the Manchester City man from the national side, he will need to be in the Premier League.
So if Pulis decides to give the Bristol-born goalkeeper his chance next season, then Begovic, now established as one of the best in the country, is unlikely to settle for a place on the bench, particularly after fighting so hard to see off the competition of Sorensen. If he does leave Stoke, he will have plenty of takers, headed by, so we are led to believe, United.
But is the Bosnian really any better than Ferguson’s current first choice, David De Gea? The former Atletico Madrid man has had his critics since arriving in England for £17million in the summer of 2011, but he has on more than one occasion shown just why he is expected to eventually succeed Iker Casillas as his country’s number one. Like Begovic, he too has had to see off a Danish rival, in the shape of Anders Lindegaard; yet whilst the former Aalesund star is a good back-up, in reality, he is not in the same league as the Spaniard.
Ferguson has made mistakes with goalkeepers in the past, most notably with Massimo Taibi, the Italian who impressed on his debut against Liverpool at Anfield but then went on to make some horrendous errors. And there was Mark Bosnich, who was given the chance to succeed the great Peter Schmeichel yet slipped to third choice within a year.
Some critics have been desperate to add De Gea to the list of goalkeeper blunders by the United boss, but recent months have shown that the Scot was right to spend such a handsome fee to lure him from the Spanish capital. And still just 22, he is only going to get better; his shot-stopping is already as good as any in the Premier League, and once he gets a better command of his area, there will be few to match him in Europe. So whilst Begovic may be a tempting possibility when the window reopens, he would unlikely be an upgrade to what Ferguson can already boast.
In fact, the biggest worry United have about De Gea is not his ability, but how long they can persuade him to stay in Manchester when the inevitable calls from Barcelona and Real Madrid come.