After massively successful stints firstly in Bulgaria with CSKA Sofia and later in Germany with Bayern Leverkusen, six-time Bulgarian footballer of the year Dimitar Berbatov moved to London to ply his trade with Tottenham Hotspur. There has been 27 goals in 70 games, an infallible first touch, unrivalled grace and a potential to play for arguably the biggest club in the world were all warranting of a move to Manchester United. Late in the summer transfer window of 2008, Sir Alex Ferguson gave Dimitar that move.
Upon his arrival – one that cost United £30 million – Berbatov was touted as the next Eric Cantona. ‘King Eric’ has not been emulated by Berbatov but the languid Bulgarian was never going to be able to compare with the United great, indeed, almost anything other than perfection would have paled in to insignificance. One of the reasons for this is Berbatov’s overtly relaxed nature; he is oft seen to stroll round a pitch and when placed next to Wayne Rooney, he looks remarkably lazy. His detractors will point to his goals per game ratio (1 in 3) and say that he has not even remotely justified such a substantial transfer fee; some will say that his signing has signalled Ferguson’s diminishing ability to make a great signing. Why, they will say, did Fergie spend such an inordinate sum of money on a player that looks distinctly average and anything but a Manchester United player?
At this point, the case for defence comes in. As said earlier, Berbatov does play with a grace and guile that is similar to Cantona and whilst his fluency in goal scoring and popularity with fans is different, Berbatov deserves to be analysed by his own merits and successes. Since his move to United, they have won a league title, been crowned World Champions, won the League Cup (an important trophy despite recent protestations, a la Arsene Wenger) and competed in a Champions League final. He is also extremely valuable to the team, not quite as valuable as Rooney however. This season, Berbatov has scored 12 goals in the league, assisted four times and has, when starting, only been on the losing side three times (United have lost seven games). Quite why Ferguson would want to sell Berbatov is unknown; when buying a player of 28 (now 29,) it is not seen as an investment and spending such a large amount intimated that Ferguson saw Berbatov as a permanent fixture at United for the foreseeable future. Two seasons, and in this writers opinion, two good seasons, are not an adequate arbiter to decipher whether a player has been worth his price tag.
It is not the fault of the Bulgarian that Tottenham and Manchester United agreed upon such a figure. Assumedly, had United paid £10 million, Berbatov would have been an exceptional signing and would be applauded (not quite lauded like Cantona) for his performance in a red shirt.Rumours have recently surfaced purporting a move for Berbatov from United to an unknown club. United would expect to lose a substantial amount of money on their original investment and for that reason, coupled with Berbatov’s ability, a move seems highly unlikely. For Berbatov, such is life. From a sporting background, his career has grew and reached the pinnacle of football. It has yet to climax and as he is yet to reach 30 years of age, ‘Berbaflop’ (as he has been donned in the media and by some fans) still has time to prove that he is a worthy candidate to become a United legend.