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Atiba Hutchinson savours soccer award, looks to lead Canada to higher ground

12/19/2014 03:58 EST | Updated 02/18/2015 05:59 EST
TORONTO - At 31, Canadian midfielder Atiba Hutchinson is hitting his stride at Turkey's Besiktas. And people are taking notice.

"Atiba is our best player,'' says Canadian coach Benito Floro. "He is the best player in Besiktas.''

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger agreed after his team played Besiktas in the Champions League in August. "I was impressed by Hutchinson," he said.

Canadian media, coaches and clubs agreed in voting Hutchinson the Canadian Men's Player of the Year for a third time. Canadian captain Christine Sinclair was chosen top women's player for the 12th time — and 11th straight year.

"It kind of does feel like I'm at the peak of my career," Hutchinson said Friday on a conference call. "For me, maybe the last three or four years, I didn't get to play in my natural position as much as I would like. And now I'm doing that and I'm doing that with a team that's playing very good football right now.

"Right now I'm at a good point in my career and I'm probably playing some of the best football that I've been playing in a while. I'm pretty pleased with that."

His preferred position is in central midfield, although he was asked to play right back while in the Netherlands before joining Besiktas.

Hutchinson built his career carefully, starting in Scandinavia with Osters and Helsingborg in Sweden and FC Copenhagen in Denmark. His next move was to Dutch side PSV Eindhoven in 2010, a stint that was interrupted by three surgeries to his left knee.

While he enjoys his Turkish club, his contract expires at the end of the season. Hutchinson has always had a desire to play in England, so is open to change.

"It's kind of hard not to know what's happening and hear all the rumours," he said. "A lot of it sometimes is rumours. Some of it is a little bit more serious than others. I'm just playing it by ear and seeing what happens over the next couple of months, because in January I'm open to speak to anyone. But I've enjoyed my time here in Turkey. The fans, the support and everything has been amazing.

"The club is very big here and the fans really have taken me in very well. So I'm pretty comfortable here and I've said it before that I'm very open to staying here. If things play out that way, I'd be happy to stay here another couple of years. Unless something very exciting came up, if it was the Premier League, if it was maybe one of the bigger leagues in Europe, I'd definitely take that into consideration."

He has also said he would be open to finishing his career in MLS, especially if he could play in Canada.

Hutchinson remains committed to the Canadian cause, taking long plane rides back from Turkey to play for his country. He sees great promise in the young players around him and says Floro is making his mark.

"I'll always be there for the national team when I get the call," Hutchinson said. "And give my 100 per cent best because I want the team to achieve something, maybe win the Gold Cup or get to the Confederations Cup, or even qualify for the World Cup.

"For me in my mind, I want to be around for as long as I can and give one last push at it to qualify. I want to be there as much as I can."

Hutchinson, from Brampton, Ont., finished ahead of Ludogorets Razgrad goalkeeper Milan Borjan and Birmingham City defender David Edgar in the Canadian award voting.

"Obviously it feels very good," Hutchinson said. "Every time I've won it, it's felt a little bit better than the last so I'm very happy with that.

"Just representing your county and to be honoured with an award like this is something very special."

The awards are sponsored by BMO.

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