He has always been different from the others. Quiet, withdrawn, Berbatov refuses to be sucked into the loud, effervescent public life of Rio Ferdinand, nor the wild, sex driven antics of Wayne Rooney. When United players are asked to describe their Bulgarian teammate, the answers tend to be vague or mumbled. To an outsider, it would seem as though nobody really knows Dimitar Berbatov. He is said to sit far from the rest on away trips, and rarely join in on raucous games of cards in the wee hours during those infamous tours abroad.
Lackadaisical, languid, lazy. Berbatov’s playing style has generated cliches of its own. Wishing to criticize, no wide range of vocabulary is needed, merely a group of synonyms that any would be TV pundit learns in their crash course to being unoriginal.
Even when he achieves, Berbatov’s accomplishments are derided. A golden boot made impure by the distribution of goals – heavily on one or two games against low level opposition – and a second title win in three years, more the work of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.
Now the criticism seems to have worked. The Bulgarian Berbatov is further away from first team football than ever, on the outskirts both personally and professionally.
Interest from PSG and Juventus though was rejected, despite his apparent distance from the starting eleven, Berbatov holds some value in Ferguson’s eye. What value though? Has he just been shelved away, kept only to save face, to show that thirty million pounds wasn’t wasted? Berbatov is fast turning into another object, kept only for the sake of stubbornness, cursed by no fault of his own, but by the failure of those around him to understand his footballing importance and by a price tag which many see as at its most useful when tied around the striker’s metaphorical neck.
The 2011 Champions League final looked to be his nadir. Left out of the squad entirely, Berbatov was forced to take a watchers on role while the constantly injured Michael Owen claimed a place on the bench. That season Owen had netted twice in the league. Berbatov was top scorer with twenty.