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Asmir Begovic could already be this summer's most underrated signing

Friday 2nd June 2017
With the whole world not noticing, Bournemouth signed Asmir Begovic from Chelsea, this week. It's hard to imagine a more impactful signing drawing less attention.

Peter Shilton, when signed for £250,000 in 1977, was history's most expensive goalkeeper. It was seen as a waste of money. Goalkeeper was not a position requiring investment; there were far more influential roles in a football team that deserved priority. Or at least that was the thought, at the time.
Still, Brian Clough's esteemed assistant, Peter Taylor, the man credited with having perhaps the best eye for a player in English football, was obsessed with Shilton. As he admitted in his autobiography, Taylor heralded Shilton's talent from the moment he became a fixture in the Leicester City starting line-up at just 19. Eight years on, Clough, too, knew Shilton's capability. The England keeper had just been relegated with Stoke City but had already amassed 400 league games. Buying him seemed an obvious move.

So it was. But the signing did not come without its fair share of criticism. Not for the player, mind. Rather, the price tag. As already noted, consensus was the position's value was such that £250,000 could have been better spent elsewhere. In the ensuing thirty years, football has moved on, evolved, changed, and improved. Yet, there remains a stigma over investing heavily in goalkeepers.

How else to explain that the all-time record fee for a goalkeeper's transfer, Gianluigi Buffon from Parma to Juventus for £32.6 million in 2001, stood until this week, when Manchester City paid £34.9 million to Benfica for Ederson? When inflation is factored in, the record technically still hasn't been broken. At the time, Buffon's price tag was an eye-watering sum, although one he has long since justified.

Which leads me to Begovic's addition to Bournemouth. I have to confess, it wasn't until Thursday I realised this move had been completed two days prior. Such is the understated business Eddie Howe conducts on the South Coast. That got me thinking. How, at a time of year when news is a little quiet, the season having all but drawn to a close and the gearing up for the summer transfer window not quite begun, can an established, experienced, accomplished, title-winning, Premier League goalkeeper's signing fly completely under the radar?

True, Begovic had been little more than a reserve at Chelsea, used as an emergency stopgap whenever Thibault Courtois suffered injury. It was a role far beneath the Bosnian's standing. As a regular starter for Stoke, Begovic was nearly as consummate as Shilton. Strong and imposing in aerial challenges, he was in charge. He was also excellent from set-pieces, an adept shotstopper, and possessed the force of character to deal with the barraging attacks continually thrown up by the Premier League.
At Bournemouth, Begovic will flourish. He is undoubtedly a real coup for a middling Premier League side needing a consistently reliable option between the sticks. I am not rating his signing level with Buffon or Shilton's but, the wild, engulfing world of transfer rumour often forgets to pick up goalkeepers, even when they deserve mention. Begovic is most certainly deserving. Howe and Bournemouth should be praised to the hilt for his addition. It will take some doing to surpass it as the most summer's most underrated signing.
Andrew Dowdeswell

A sport obsessed 20 something who just really wants Arsenal to finally win the league. Please Wenger, what the hell happened to you?!


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