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It is very much a case of coming full circle for Asmir Begovic. The 30-year-old Bosnia-Herzegovina international goalkeeper is back at Bournemouth, 10 years on from a loan spell when the club was struggling at the bottom of League One.
He was on loan from Portsmouth, where Eddie Howe was once a team-mate. Now Howe is his manager in the Premier League after Begovic re-joined the Cherries from last season’s champions Chelsea this summer.
“I would not have scripted it like this but that’s football,” Begovic told BBC Sport.
“It’s difficult to predict the future – it’s been one heck of a journey. A lot has changed but for the better. The infrastructure is very, very good here. The work behind the scenes is huge, the stadium is more or less the same but the group of players are Premier League players now.”
There are, however, a couple of familiar faces; Neil Moss, who Begovic displaced from the starting line-up for his debut away at Nottingham Forest in 2007, is the Cherries’ goalkeeping coach and winger Max Gradel too is enjoying his second spell on the south coast.
Bournemouth finished ninth in the top-flight last season and Begovic is adamant the club can build upon that success.
“I have won a couple of trophies in my career so why not win a couple more in the next few years – that is the aim whether that is in the cups or Europe could be an objective for us to reach in the next few years,” he said. “I think there is a lot more room for us to grow and improve.”
Begovic has played under an impressive catalogue of managers with highly decorated CVs – including Guus Hiddink, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte – and believes Howe has a lot in common with the current Chelsea manager.
“I have gone from one intense manager to another so I like it,” he said. “I think the passion they put into the game and that they have for the game is very similar.
“You see the hours they put in, the attention to detail they have is very, very similar. I think to be at the highest level you have to work the most and that is what puts them at the top.
“His [Howe’s] work ethic is second to none and it rubs off on the whole group – I haven’t seen many managers work as hard as him. His attention to detail is huge – he does not leave any stone unturned.”
The most important thing this season, though, is to play football after being on the periphery of Chelsea’s title success last season and with the World Cup in Russia next year looming.
“Playing regularly keeps you ticking over and with a bit of luck if we can qualify for the World Cup then obviously playing week in, week out will make the manager’s decision that little bit easier,” said Begovic.
“It is not easy, especially when you go to a match day and you are not playing. On a daily basis you are training with everyone, you are part of the process but on a match day it is different. When you are not playing on a match day it is not the nicest thing and it is difficult to handle at times.”
There are no hard feelings though. Begovic is extremely grateful for the “great experience” and opportunity afforded to him by Mourinho, who signed the keeper from Stoke City in 2015.
Begovic finished his time at Chelsea with a Premier League winners’ medal and while he notes the club has a decision to make on Diego Costa’s future, he believes Conte’s side will have another impressive campaign.
“I like the signing of [Tiemoue] Bakayoko, I think he will be a good player for them,” he said. “They have a good squad and they have not got that much to change. I think the heart of that squad is still there and they won the title last year.
“It is the second year for the manager so there are many things he can still teach them. He is all about togetherness as a team so maybe it is not all about individuals or marquee signings.
“It is about the team doing the right things, playing for each other and I think that is their biggest strength. I expect them to be challenging for all the major titles once again.”
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