Pompey set to lose out again on keeper

Asmir Begovic departed Pompey on February 1, 2010, with the club negotiating a sell-on clause
Asmir Begovic departed Pompey on February 1, 2010, with the club negotiating a sell-on clause
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It was 13 seconds after 3pm last weekend when former Pompey keeper Asmir Begovic truly established himself as a household name.

A wind-propelled kick up field against Southampton and suddenly the 26-year-old was elevated into a slot on Match of the Day 2 and an appearance on TalkSport in the subsequent national clamour.

It even emerged from a Bosnian newspaper interview he had been lined up for a move to Manchester City in the summer, only for it to be scuppered by Roberto Mancini’s sacking.

Not that a big-money move from Stoke to the Etihad Stadium would have benefited Pompey, after all there is no sell-on clause.

Yes, Asmir Begovic was sold by the Blues to the Potters on February 1, 2010, for a £3.25m fee – without any form of a sell-on.

The handiwork of Daniel Azougy in all its finery – the man in control of Pompey’s finances at the time.

While demoted chief executive Peter Storrie and executive director Mark Jacob scrapped during the last breath of the Ali Al Faraj reign, above them, financial advisor Azougy drove the January sales.

Azougy was untouchable at Fratton Park. Top-ranking Fratton Park staff, including Jacob, Storrie and former finance director Tanya Robins, had been told he was in charge unconditionally via e-mailed instructions from Al Faraj.

Still, with Pompey careering towards a February 2010 administration, with debts largely created by Sacha Gaydamak’s regime, Azougy was disposing of any assets.

That meant Begovic.

The giant keeper made his Pompey first-team bow in the final two games of the 2008-09 season when David James was injured.

The following campaign he overtook Jamie Ashdown in the pecking order, and by January 26, 2010, a mid-week 1-1 Fratton Park draw with West Ham marked his 11th appearance in 12 matches.

Long before, goalkeeping coach Dave Coles had hailed a teenage Begovic as the most talented stopper he had ever seen for his age during an interview in The News.

It is not without irony that Pompey actually beat Spurs – who attempted to cash in on the Blues’ troubles with a double January raid for Begovic and Younes Kaboul – to the shot-stopper’s signature.

Back in 2003, the Blues’ long-serving youth development officer, Dave Hurst, had been offered the chance to trial the highly-regarded 15-year-old from Canada.

Begovic’s agents even paid his airfare and Hurst picked him up at Heathrow airport, only to discover a two-week Fratton trial would be followed by a fortnight at Spurs.

On his first day, youth coaches Mark O’Connor and Shaun North recommended he should be signed before he even arrived at White Hart Lane.

Yet there were complications, with Begovic not possessing a British or EU passport, considering he had dual nationality for Serbia and Canada – although had lived in Germany for five years.

Initially, he spent two years on an education visa but was unable to feature in matches which involved money being taken on the gate, ruling him out of reserve games and FA Youth Cup matches.

He could, however, turn out for the youth team in league matches and was part of a group which included James Keene, Marc Wilson, Liam Horsted and Daryl Fordyce.

When that expired he was lent to Belgian club La Louviere in 2005, although come the summer of 2006 Begovic had his UK visa.

Fast forward then to January 2010 when the recently-capped Bosnia & Herzegovina keeper with 17 Pompey appearances to his name was summoned to Spurs.

It was to be a double deal involving Kaboul, the player Spurs boss Harry Redknapp was desperate to land most out of the two, particularly with defensive injury problems.

Ever the shrewd negotiator, though, Daniel Levy stressed Begovic was their priority, with Kaboul nothing more than a makeweight.

The oldest trick in the book according to some involved at the time and the price had been driven down – Azougy had been reeled in and a deal for both agreed.

Then came Begovic’s twist. Concerned he would be the understudy to Heurelho Gomes, Stoke became his welcome alternative.

Levy still wanted Kaboul and £4m was paid – with a panicked Pompey agreeing £1m to be handed over to the White Hart Lane club if Begovic was loaned or sold elsewhere.

Incidentally, in November 2011, a settlement of £700,000 was agreed weeks ahead of a scheduled Premier League arbitration hearing over what became a disputed figure.

Still, Storrie and Jacob united in their condemnation of Begovic’s exit to Stoke, citing he would attract a considerably bigger fee at the end of the season.

Storrie, as an authorised signatory, even refused to sign off the transfer documents for three days as tempers flared and a stand-off developed with Azougy.

He finally relented, and on a February 1, 2010, Begovic joined Stoke on a four-and-a-half year deal.

Orchestrated by Azougy, there was no sell-on clause and no appearance add-ons – standard inclusions in deals for young players in the upper echelons of the Football League.

Barely two days later, Balram Chainrai took charge of the Blues, dislodging Al Faraj, and on February 26 put the club into administration.

By then, however, he had taken out the £4m Kaboul fee to ‘repay a friend’ – an action admitted both by him and Andrew Andronikou to The News.

Today, Begovic has made 113 appearances for the Potters and earned 26 caps for Bosnia & Herzegovina, who have qualified for next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil.

Now aged 26, he is married with children and still keeps in touch with those key figures from his Pompey days. The landlady at his North End digs, Janet Hannon, was invited to his wedding, while Hurst received a congratulatory text on his birthday last Saturday.

But Pompey will never receive a cut from a future sale of Asmir Begovic.