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The Mystique Of Dimitar Berbatov - How Was Such A Languid Player So Well Loved?

Mikey Traynor
By Mikey Traynor
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On the face of it, Dimitar Berbatov does not look like a player who would typically be remembered by the fans of a club the size of Manchester United when the player eventually leaves the club.

And yet, an image posted of Bulgarian badass Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney to Facebook saw an outpouring of love for the man Alex Ferguson paid £30.75 million to sign from Spurs.

Chances are that's not the first time you've seen that picture. A comment or share from a Manchester United fan somewhere on your timeline would have brought it to your attention.




However, for some people, that appears to be a strange sight.

Some can't understand why a player who couldn't run, didn't score in the "big" games often enough, and ultimately didn't live up to his inflated price tag, still gets love on a regular basis after leaving the club over four years ago.

I am not one of those people. I appreciate the man, and what he stood for as a footballer. As an artist.


Dimitar Berbatov is right up there with the smoothest operators to ever play the game, and while there are understandable reasons as to why someone would not take a shine to a player like him, I am here to explain why they are wrong.

He wasn't worth the money.

This is an argument that has become less and less relevent as we see the rest of the league catch up in terms of paying premium rates for players that are not unwanted. Especially Manchester United. Ferguson wanted him, he was signed. Only now is it apparent that a fee of around £30m is no big deal with the money being brought into the club year after year.

He didn't score enough in his first and fourth (final) seasons at United, but 12 in his second was a good return, and 20 in his third season was enough to earn him Premier League top scorer honours in a season where the club won the league. That in itself justified the price tag.

He was only really first choice for one season.

That may be true. But therein lies a big reason why the fans feel the way they do about him.


Berbatov was signed for big money at the time, he faced pressure to perform, and he constantly had strong competition for places. This meant that he didn't play every week, and what happens when big name players on big wages don't play every week? They moan.

They moan to their agent, he moans to the press, the manager gets hassled in interviews, and the fans start bickering over whether or not he should play. Berbatov was responsible for absolutely none of that as a Manchester United player. He faced long spells on the bench, but he kept his mouth shut, and he kept himself focused on helping the team when needed. He liked being a Manchester United player. That goes a long way with their supporters. Just ask Rafael, or Anderson.

Dimitar was a total gentleman.

He wasn't world class.

Who cares? World class is a futile term that Phil Neville showed a comical inability to grasp on Match Of The Day on Wednesday night. If you are questioning his ability in terms of finishing, when deployed as a centre forward, then that is not without reason, but to do so would be to miss the point of Berba entirely.

He facilitated, he created, he inspired. With one lazy extension of his leg, he'd kill a ball stone dead as if he had developed the ability to harness bullet-time. And he made it look so comically effortless that it must have made the opponents around him realise that they need to respect his ability to manipulate the ball, while his teammates knew to expect the unexpected.

Is he remembered for being one of the best players to play the game? No.

But he is remembered for being one of the sexiest. (That's Ruud Gullit's definition of sexy, just to be sure, let's not get too carried away...)

He never ran, he didn't care.

He didn't need to run. The game gravitated towards him. Maybe that explains his first touch.. A gravitational pull towards that big Bulgarian toe. Technique is far more valuable than pace, and Berbatov had so much class in those velvet slippers that is just wasn't an issue that he couldn't make killer runs in behind.

If he was fast, he wouldn't have the time to talk the ball into doing what he wanted. And as for his attitude?

It's not that he wasn't passionate, it's that he was so composed that he very rarely opted to show emotion. Sometimes he'd pump the fists for an important goal, but he never lost his cool. Think of how much enegry Pippo Inzaghi would waste by celebrating a goal like he'd won gold at the 110-meter hurdles in the Olympics. It's just not practical.

Instead, Berba glided his way around the pitch and stroked the ball with his foot when he received it.

I'm not having it, he wasn't as good as they say.

Ok then, your loss.

Berbatov is a rock star. A super chill, extremely likable rock star. You don't have to love him, you don't have to like him at all, but surely you can see why many, many fans of the beautiful game will always show love for a player of his ilk.

At 35, he has returned to train with Manchester United in a bid to get fit again, and I hope he can find a club that treats him well, so every now and again I can get a notification that someone has tagged me in his latest clip of wizardry.

Keep doing your thing, Dimitar, you beautiful bastard.


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