Fulham Focus – Can the Cottagers hold onto Berbatov next season?

It does not take a genius to suggest that Dimitar Berbatov has been Fulham’s player of the season by quite some distance. Since his arrival in West London in late August, the Bulgarian has illuminated Craven Cottage on many occasions this campaign, justifying manager Martin Jol’s claims that his signing represented the best in the club’s history.

The 32-year-old has scored 13 Premier League goals so far, a better tally than all but two of his seasons in English football, those being the 2007/08 season with 15 for Tottenham and the 2010/11 season, when he hit 20 for Manchester United. Indeed, his influence on the team can be seen in the simple statistic that says Fulham have not lost this season when Berbatov has found the net.

The goals tell their own story but his displays on the pitch, even when not on the score sheet, have often been little short of sensational. His creativity, supreme touch and wonderful ability to control games from almost any position can be seen shining through like a beacon. Additionally, for a player often derided for a perceived lack of desire to work and chase back for the team, the sight of a 32-year-old Berbatov charging around the pitch, putting pressure on opponents and taking responsibility for his side has been a joy to watch.

The question of course now is, can Fulham somehow hold onto him? Supporters may be a little surprised at this question, after all Berbatov is now in the twilight of his career and he appears more than happy at Craven Cottage, in London, under the stewardship of the manager who initially brought him to England at Tottenham Hotspur. Indeed, now that the Dutchman has committed himself to staying at Fulham for another season, the chances of Berbatov staying have surely increased.

However, for all of his brilliance this season, Berbatov has cut a frustrated figure on occasion. During Fulham’s awful mid-season dip in form in particular, he could be seen lambasting his own teammates for their inability to either pass the ball to him, or not pass the ball to him quickly enough. It was almost as if after years of playing with the cream of top talent available at Tottenham and United, Berbatov simply could not understand why the likes of, with all due respect, Steve Sidwell and Chris Baird, were failing to provide him with service.

He may be 32, but Berbatov is undoubtedly still a class act who could still perform at a top team, if not as a regular starter but certainly as a squad option. Indeed, it appears bizarre that a team such as Arsenal do not enquire about Berbatov’s services considering their lack of striking options.

Perhaps what the Cottagers and Jol will have to do is convince their talisman that next season will not be another relegation scrap that turns into mid-table mediocrity. Nobody is expecting Fulham to challenge for the top four but a player of Berbatov’s talents deserves more than scrapping around the lower ends of the Premier League table, and he knows it.

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