The all-time top Bulgarian goalscorer and record Manchester United signing Dimitar ‘Dracula’ Berbatov has finally put an end to his typically long-winded transfer saga by signing for Fulham. First he was definitely going to Fiorentina, then he stood their team officials up at the airport and instead courted Juventus (who ultimately went for the even-more-disappointing Nicolas Bendtner instead). Staying true to Italian fiery form, an official Fiorentina statement read: ‘He did not deserve our city and our shirt and the values it represents.’ (The accompanying hand gesticulations must be imagined).
Finally, Martin Jol pounced on the opportunity to snap up a player he’s been interested in for the past year. As recently as this morning, Sir Alex said of Berbatov: ‘We thought he was in Italy, but it turned out he isn't. He could be anywhere. I really mean that’ and I wouldn't be surprised if he's at Tottenham. There are rumours going around.’ Berbatov’s wife apparently had a big say in keeping her languid lover in the UK, and perhaps fancies the London life.
Ferguson gradually lost faith in Berbatov’s ability to produce in big games… mainly because he failed to produce in all big games
There was never really any doubt about whether Berbatov would leave during the current transfer window. In fact, it’s surprised me as a United fan that he’s lasted this long, such has been Fergie’s total loss of interest in the striker. Berbatov has never exactly exuded the kind of fighting spirit needed to battle his way back to the front end of United’s striking unit.
Looking back over his mixed but ultimately failed spell at United, it was clear that Ferguson gradually lost faith in Berbatov’s ability to produce in big games… mainly because he failed to produce in all big games (discounting one hat-trick performance against Liverpool). This was most apparent when he was left out of the squad in the Champions League final against Barcelona in 2011, after finishing the season as joint top goalscorer in the Premier League.
I found myself shouting probably the most basic instruction of ‘Run forward!’ at (Berbatov) as the TV as United would pour forward in a flowing counter attack
You probably know all this though. One fact that did somewhat surprise me is the interesting stat that shows Berbatov’s goals-to-games ratio for United in the Premier Leauge was actually better (albeit only slightly) than during his time at Spurs- 0.44 to 0.42 respectively. Although no-one has ever really denied his footballing, or even goal-scoring ability, Berbatov’s demise at Old Trafford is a reflection of the fact that a team like United expect their marquee, over-priced stars to further develop as players at United, and this is something he plainly wasn’t interested in doing.
When viewed under greater scrutiny, it was the lack of consistency and- well, let’s be honest- effort in Berbatov’s game that ultimately proved his down-fall. I can’t remember the number of times I found myself shouting probably the most basic instruction of ‘Run forward!’ at him as the TV as United would pour forward in a flowing counter attack before Berbatov would take hold of the ball, stop dead, have a look around for an available backwards pass (or square at best) before ambling gently goal-ward. Ferguson said as much (although more diplomatically) this morning: 'When we changed our game, it didn't suit him. We started to play with more speed and teams were getting organised very quickly against us.’
There is, though, something intriguing and enticing about the enigma of a striker who is still known to enjoy a regular cigar...
Berbatov never fully endeared himself to United fans, although we did all enjoy his ridiculously silky touches. I’ve certainly never seen a footballer with the same ability to bring the ball under instant control from such awkwardly high, powerful passes or goal kicks. It’s just a shame that he would often seem to think that this artistry was the required sum of his work.
There is, though, something intriguing and enticing about the enigma of a striker who is still known to enjoy a regular cigar and looks at his most uninterested when playing professional footballer for the most successful team in Britain. In celebration, I’ll leave you with this quote from the Guardian’s Secret Footballer: "On one occasion I went sliding in to Dimitar Berbatov (I honestly thought I could win the ball) and afterwards the look on his face was one of total pity for me. He seemed saddened by the fact I had to resort to this, either because I wasn't as good as him or my football education was so flawed. Actually I think it was both."
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