When it comes to discussing great strikers, it is unlikely that Dimitar Berbatov will be mentioned in the same breath as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thierry Henry and David Villa. The Bulgarian may have won the trophies during his four years with Manchester United, but a lack of playing time at Old Trafford has seen his career stagnate, somewhat.
Berbatov arrived at Tottenham Hotspur in 2006 from Bayer Leverkusen, despite interest from United. He took his time to adjust to the rigours of the Premier League, netting just 12 goals in 33 in his debut season. However, during his debut campaign with Spurs, the 31-year-old struck up an almost physic partnership with Robbie Keane, evident as the duo picked up the Player of the Month award in April 2007.
His second, and final, year at White Hart Lane was much more impressive and saw him net the equalising penalty in the final of the Carling Cup, which Spurs went on to lift following the 2-1 win over Chelsea. His quality was clear for all to see and as such, interest was high in Berbatov following the 2007/08 season.
United led the race for the Bulgarian, who finally secured his move to Old Trafford for £30.75m during the closing stages of Deadline Day. Unfortunately, the way he went about securing his big money switch saw him demonised by the Spurs faithful, who were hoping the classy front-man would stick at White Hart lane to really write himself into folklore.
Four years later, and United are prepared to listen to offers for as low as, reportedly, £5m. Many were quick to stress that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, referring to his move to Old Trafford. However, six trophies in four years, despite being restricted to a handful of starting opportunities last season, suggest otherwise.
Spurs only really recovered from his departure last summer following the arrival of Emmanuel Adebayor. In the three years between Berbatov’s departure and Adebayor’s arrival, the North London outfit struggled with the likes of Roman Pavlyuchenko, Peter Crouch and Darren Bent and to an extent, Keane and Jermain Defoe leading the line.
The world class front-man that Spurs craved in order to challenge for major honours was painfully lacking, despite Champions League qualification and a decent run in the competition to follow. Berbatov, for the two years he was at White Hart Lane, was that world class striker. His hold-up play, ability to link up with team-mates and exquisite touch saw him highly thought of at the club.
However, it was these traits that meant he was never going to succeed at Manchester United. Ferguson likes his striker’s to be quick, mobile and work hard when the club have the ball and when the opposition is in possession. These aspects were never part of Berbatov’s game and it showed during his time with the club.
The Bulgarian regularly found himself behind the likes of Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez and more recently, Danny Welbeck. Ferguson never really trusted him in the bigger games, even if he finished joint top scorer in the Premier League after the 2010/11 season. However, 11 of his goals came in three games – against Blackburn Rovers, Liverpool and Birmingham City – with the remaining nine coming in the other 29 of the 32 encounters. Furthermore, against Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool Spurs and Mancheser City, he has netted just five times in 26 appearances, three of which came against the Merseyside outfit.
Nevertheless, his goalscoring exploits, having netted seven in the Premiership last year, is still evident for all to see. Spurs may have ended the campaign having scored 66 goals, an average of just over two a game, but his experience could’ve been helpful in the race for a top four finish. Following the release of Louis Saha, expected sale of Defoe and delay over the permanent arrival of Adebayor, Spurs have just three recognised strikers on the books – Defoe, Harry Kane and Souleymane Coulibaly.
At just £5m, re-signing Berbatov could be some shrewd business by Levy and co. His arrival may not appease Spurs fans, who are somewhat begrudging of the Bulgarian following his conduct in the way he departed the club. Yet, his class is still evident and with the market for striker’s increasing each and every day, if the North London club can re-acquire him, they should take up the opportunity.
It wouldn’t be welcomed by all quarters of the Spurs faithful, but the Manchester United star still has what it takes to compete at the highest level. However, they will need to act swiftly if they are to snare him, with AC Milan, Bayer Leverkusen and Galatasaray all interested in the signing him. He may not fit in with the current model at White Hart lane, but as a stop-gap to fire Spurs back into the Champions League, the return of Berbatov could be exactly what the team need.
One of Spurs greatest players Teddy Sheringham who played for England and won almost every individual honour at the club level with Tottenham Hotspurs among others, made a successful return to Tottenham in 2001 and could act as an inspiration for a possible Berbatov return. Teddy has not lost his competitive nature and found a release via playing poker he is sponsored by a professional poker room.
Statistics provided by James McManus
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