Dimitar Berbatov’s omission from Manchester United ‘s 18-strong squad selected to face Barcelona in last Saturday’s Champions’ League Final raised serious questions about the Bulgarian’s future, but the 30 year-old was in attendance for the Red Devil’s open-top bus parade through Manchester city centre yesterday; an event dampened as much by the rainy weather as by United’s defeat in the Wembley showpiece. Alongside Berbatov stood Paul Scholes, who delayed announcing his future intentions until this morning, and revealed he is to bring his illustrious and trophy-laden 17-year career to an end.
While the Englishman mulls over an available coaching position within the club, his team-mate remains ominously unaware of what next season holds, and will face some tough decisions this summer on what his best move might be. Much has been made of his 20 goals this year and how irrational Sir Alex Ferguson’s exclusion may have immediately appeared on the surface, but the fact is, Berbatov hasn’t performed capably enough when it matters, and in this sense, is a liability in a club that faces ‘big games’ on a regular basis, year on year.
From a spectator’s perspective, there are few individuals who can equal the ingenuity, touch and vision of the former Bayer Leverkusen front-man, who to be fair, has proved proficient enough at finding the net at a top level, evinced by career totals reading 190 goals in 460 games (83 as a substitute). Although his 47 goals in 128 appearances for his current employers confirms that during his three years at Old Trafford he has failed to match the potency of Ruud van Nistelrooy, nor captured the faithful’s hearts in the way Eric Cantona, the player Ferguson compared the Bulgarian to on his £30.75million arrival in 2008, did.
It is worth mentioning that he ended the season joint-top of the Premier League scoring charts with former team-mate Carlos Tevez this season, who he now looks set to follow past Ferguson’s office door and down the one-way corridor towards the exit. But which club should he seriously consider joining in order to not only maintain his status as one of Europe’s most gifted talents but also to prevent fading in to obscurity as he heads in to his final few seasons?
He is a proven goal-scorer in England, having featured on these shores for five consecutive seasons, so perhaps could contemplate a shift towards the lower reaches of the Premiership. Newcastle are the first side to declare an interest and would certainly be able to meet United’s £7.5million asking price with boss, Alan Pardew, apparently boasting a considerable amount of Andy Carroll’s £35million transfer income. The Toon are without doubt a club with ambition who cemented their Premiership status almost effortlessly in their first campaign back in the top flight and are a good shout to push for Europa League involvement next term.
A possible move back to Spurs has been mooted by several journalists recently, and taking in to account the White Hart Lane club’s recent turmoil up-front, this wouldn’t represent the worst return in football history. Although Tottenham fans deplored his motives for departing three years ago, the club could benefit from a striker of his quality to complement the likes of Jermain Defoe and Rafael van der Vaart, but Harry Redknapp faces the more pressing issue of which forwards to maintain for next year before he can think about delving in to the transfer market.
It could be that a European side with a Champions’ League offering such as Borussia Dortmund or Napoli might eventually declare an interest, especially seeing as the Italian club look set to start next season without Edison Cavani or Ezequiel Lavezzi. Berbatov is clearly an aspirational type and his career signals a natural ascension up the football career ladder. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him shun the English leagues in total and head to a new environment on the continent where he could be guaranteed a starting and starring role. We will have to wait and see, but for now, it appears the Premier League will be losing at least one of its most entertaining and yet enigmatic stars this summer.