JONATHAN Woodgate praised “top class” Asmir Begovic insisting that the goalkeeper remains “exactly the same” as when the duo played together at Stoke City.
Begovic has been one of Cherries’ most notable performers this season, following his surprise return to the club.
The Bosnian plug fell out of favor under former boss Eddie Howe and found himself behind Aaron Ramsdale, Artur Boruc and Mark Travers in the pecking order in the summer of 2019.
Begovic, who joined Cherries from Chelsea for £ 10million in 2017, was loaned out to Azerbaijani club Qarabag, before later joining forces with AC Milan on a temporary deal.
Many expected the 33-year-old to leave Vitality Stadium for good last summer, but after both Ramsdale and Boruc departures, Begovic returned and dismissed the competition from Travers to become the premier keeper again. choice of Cherries.
He has played 42 of the club’s 45 league and cup games this season, retaining a 17th clean sheet in Monday’s 2-0 win at the Blackburn Rovers. Begovic also saved a late penalty from Adam Armstrong in the victory.
And Woodgate, who was a Begovic team-mate in the 2011-12 campaign, says the Bosnian hasn’t changed since their time in the Potteries, where they have lined up 10 times in the Premier League and Europa League.
“He was exactly the same as when I first met him,” Cherries Woodgate boss told The Daily Echo.
“Exactly the same – consistent, a great guy, humble and that’s what you want. Its performances show it.
“When he got here I always thought it was a good signing for Bournemouth. Okay, it didn’t go as planned. He had a few loans.
“He’s been to Milan and so on, but I think this year he’s been really good. What I have seen of him since being here, he has only been first class.
Begovic arrived at Cherries with a Premier League winner’s medal under his belt from his time at Chelsea.
He has also made 63 appearances for Bosnia and Herzegovina and until this season he had not been outside the top flight since loan spells at Ipswich, Yeovil, Cherries and Macclesfield over a decade ago. .
But Woodgate believes the goalkeeper applied himself brilliantly to the new challenge.
“It’s because he doesn’t have an ego and keeps working,” Woodgate said.
“He’s a real professional. He works hard with goalie coach Mossy (Neil Moss) and I’ll tell you what, he’s a great example for younger goalies of how to do it day in and day out.
“How to work and how to be at the highest level while keeping the enthusiasm of a 20-year-old goalkeeper.
“When you have senior professionals like Asmir it can be very beneficial to you like the young goalkeepers watching you and watching Asmir and what it takes to get to the top. He was very good.
“A humble guy and I love working with him.”
Discussing how vital Begovic’s experience will be for Cherries in the race, with just one month left of the regular season, Woodgate added, “It’s important.
“It has always been an important position for me as a goalkeeper.
“If you have a really strong one like Asmir, it can only benefit you. This builds the confidence of the last four.