Asmir Begovic Should Be Manchester City's No. 1 January Transfer Target

Phil Keidel@@PhilKeidelContributor IIOctober 16, 2013

Given Hart's woes, City will have to dance with the devil they don't know.
Given Hart's woes, City will have to dance with the devil they don't know.Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Maybe sorry seems to be the hardest word, but perhaps harder words are the ones that admit a mistake.

Manchester City must admit—and rectify—their error in failing to land Stoke City keeper Asmir Begovic over the summer by bringing him to the Etihad in January.

Doing so will not come cheaply, and it will not come without some clicking of tongues.

And it will be a sheer misery for Manchester City's brain trust—chief executive officer Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain—to admit that deposed manager Roberto Mancini was right all along. In a results business like Manchester City's, though, stubbornly running embattled keeper Joe Hart out every match and risking Premier League position and Champions League failure is no plan at all.

As recounted recently by John Richardson in the Express, Mancini's former City assistant David Platt "recently revealed that if the pair had stayed then Begovic would have been signed in the summer as Mancini had lost faith in Hart."

Bringing Begovic in would thus be more than a bit embarrassing for Soriano and Begiristain. But would it be more embarrassing than Hart's flubs at Aston Villa and at home against Bayern Munich and Everton in recent days?

No chance.

Current City boss Manuel Pellegrini is himself conflicted about what to do with Hart. As reported by, Pellegrini said that in writing up his team sheet to face Everton, "it wasn't a simple decision [to play Hart]. It was a very difficult decision."

That Pellegrini had to give that much consideration to playing seldom-used Costel Pantilimon over England's No. 1 keeper in a regular season Premier League match in early October (at home!) says all you need to hear about Hart's shaky play under Pellegrini thus far.

Change for the sake of change is not usually a great idea.

Unfortunately, Hart's inability to string together a few clean sheets—or at least a few weeks of sound keeping—has forced City's hand.

Hart has no one but himself to blame for the position he finds himself in.
Hart has no one but himself to blame for the position he finds himself in.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

City will almost certainly have to close their eyes and hold their breath with Hart through the remainder of Champions League qualifying, which figures to fittingly conclude with another caning by Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena in December.

If City have amassed enough points to survive to the knockout stage elsewhere, though, they probably will want at least the option of playing another top-flight keeper when the Champions League knockout matches force City to win to survive.

It is one thing to explain away a Hart gaffe against Everton in October. It is quite another to justify his place after a costly screw-up in, say, a Champions League quarter-final match against Real Madrid.

You will notice that this entire piece reads as less an endorsement of Begovic than it does an indictment of Hart.

You are right about that.

Begovic is a terrific keeper at Stoke City who is currently backstopping Bosnia and Herzegovina through what has been a historic World Cup qualifying campaign.

Begovic is elite.

Then again, even with all his faults right now, Hart has a Premier League title and an FA Cup on his mantel. Begovic has no such hardware to show. That is however not Begovic's fault, given the non-competitive nature of the sides he has played for.

Bringing Begovic in thus carries the risk that he will not handle the pressure of being City's first choice keeper any better than Hart has for the past few months.

City have reached a point with Hart, though, where staying the course headed straight for an iceberg is far riskier than the swerve to Begovic (with the potential of capsize) would be.