Dimitar Berbatov has departed English football. Maybe not forever, but it seems fitting to reminisce over one of the Premier League’s most gifted, even if those talents weren’t always quite so plain to see.
It could probably be described as frustrating genius. Berbatov played (and will likely continue to play) the game in such a nonchalant manner that you couldn’t help but be charmed. There’s no leg work involved; he lets the world race on around him to the tune of the English anthem: pace, power and muddied shorts.
It doesn’t sit too well that a player of such quality and ability was perceivably so easily discarded by a team staring relegation in the face. It speaks poorly of more than just Fulham that clubs are unable to cater to or even understand players of Berbatov’s type.
Some will go on to look back at his spell at Manchester United as one which was largely underwhelming. What springs to mind first, the contrast to the preferred choices, especially in big games, of Carlos Tevez or Wayne Rooney, or the brilliance that Berbatov added to United’s game?
I’m not for the idea of measuring a player’s quality by the stats from the two columns that only seem to matter. Goals and assists are one thing, but it’s a completely different topic to talk about the way a player plays the game. That casual attitude where nothing can put a hair out of place. It’s different to overconfidence or even arrogance, because that’s just the way Berbatov is. And yet for him being completely different from most others – and in the most positive way – did we ever really appreciate what a good player he was in England?
Monaco is a new opportunity for him. There is the weight of replacing Radamel Falcao until the end of the season that he’ll have to deal with. But you imagine that despite the unlikelihood of replicating the Colombian’s scoring record, Berbatov will do alright.
It’s not to paint Berbatov in a sensationalist light. He wasn’t the missing piece of Barcelona’s puzzle when Pep Guardiola sought an alternative in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, though the Bulgarian does share many traits with the Swede.
Instead, it’s just a nod to an extremely enjoyable player to watch. Those who command the ball in a way that the gut-busting runners could never master even if they tried for a hundred years. It’s the kind of skill and theatre of a football stadium that should be applauded far more than sprinting across the pitch to block an attempt at goal.
It will be a shame if we can’t properly remember Berbatov for all the positives he brought to English football pitches since arriving in 2006.