It's that time of the year when the PFA Premier League Team of the Season and PFA Player of the Year are decided.
It's the hottest of subjects on social media; it's all anyone's talking about when it comes to Premier League football right now. The individual awards, set to be given out on Sunday, will be met with much intrigue and interest.
Ask any fan. They've got an opinion. Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, N'Golo Kante and Eden Hazard are the six nominees for the player of the year award, and no matter where you are in the world, you'll hear compelling arguments for each.
One thing that always piques the interest of any fan is when those who took part in the voting process—professional footballers who are plying their trade in the Premier League—reveal which players they selected. B/R was recently given the chance to quiz one.
Speaking ahead of a golfing event on June 12 to raise funds and awareness for the Asmir Begovic Foundation—a charity dedicated to building sports facilities in England and his home country, Bosnia and Herzegovina—the man himself revealed the players named on his slip.
It should be noted that you're not allowed to pick players who play for your club. Therefore, the likes of Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante—the two big favourites for the PFA Player of the Year award—are not included.
"[A Chelsea player] deserves to win player of the year," he affirms, but when asked to choose between the two favourites, he admits he'd give a joint award if he were in charge.
His appreciation for what West Bromwich Albion and Tony Pulis do defensively is clear. Ben Foster—a player whose year Begovic describes as having been "fantastic"—takes up the spot between the sticks. And while Michael Keane and Jan Vertonghen form his central-defensive duo, he says: "I nearly put Jonny Evans in there too."
Pulis is famous for his defence-first approach, and the solidity he brings to teams ensures they stay in the Premier League. But while Foster and Evans have undoubtedly been key to that, they've also elevated the team's level—Foster with his astounding saves, and Evans with his calm, leading presence and underrated ability to start attacks from the back.
Few will argue with the inclusion of Tottenham Hotspur man Vertonghen, who's upped his game considerably this year and has been near-perfect in Mauricio Pochettino's defence. Despite changing formations and partners regularly, he's not missed a step. Burnley's Keane received his due adulation in the form of a first senior England start against Germany during the most recent international break.
At full-back, Begovic springs for two players who impressed him while playing against Chelsea this season: Liverpool's Nathaniel Clyne takes up a spot on the right, and Southampton's Ryan Bertrand takes up a spot opposite him.
Clyne's selection is an interesting one—particularly given the buzz around Antonio Valencia and Kyle Walker's performances this season—but Begovic states: "Liverpool are one of the top teams we have faced this season, and I think he fits their system really well on the right-hand side."
Moving into midfield, Begovic betrays his defensive roots slightly, opting for a 4-4-2 diamond formation in what he describes as "all-out attack." It starts with Paul Pogba at the base of midfield, with the Chelsea goalkeeper saying the Frenchman has "been impressive for Manchester United this season and is a big player for them in the centre of midfield."
Pogba has battled expectation and pressure all season and has looked a little up and down but already has one trophy under his belt as a United player and has put together some incredible patches of form.
The central roles are taken up by Dele Alli and Adam Lallana, with the former having been stunning this season for Spurs (particularly since the turn of the year) and the Liverpool man having found a new home in central midfield and consequently progressing as a player. Manchester City's David Silva takes up the No. 10 role, and then we move on to the strikers.
"I have Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane up front," Begovic reveals. "I picked Lukaku for my PFA Player of the Year. He's had a great year for Everton, consistently scoring goals."
Few will disagree with that strike force. With many of the league's best goalscorers having big consistency issues—Sergio Aguero, Alexis Sanchez, Diego Costa and Ibrahimovic included—it's not surprising that Begovic plumps for two of the most regular performers to lead the line.
Begovic was speaking ahead of his charity's latest fundraiser and awareness day. The Asmir Begovic Foundation (ABF) seeks to build sports facilities in the UK and in Bosnia and Herzegovina to inspire and enable kids to engage with sport.
"There's a huge want to play sports," he says. "Kids just don't have the opportunities. We're trying to provide that."