Dimitar Berbatov has said all the right things since becoming a red. After cutting a sulky figure on the Spurs bench for the past few weeks, we see a new, happy player emerging. He is at his dream club.
Whilst Berbatov has received a lot of stick for his moody behaviour, now that he is a United player, it’s important to look at this side of him more favourably.
Berbatov wanted to sign for United and his current club were stopping him. He had honoured the interest they showed in him back in 2006, signing for Spurs instead of waiting to see the result of the Ruud van Nistelrooy talks with Real Madrid. He’s scored over 20 goals for them in his two seasons there and now, before he misses his peak, wants the chance at playing Champions League football. Spurs had aspirations to play in top European competition, but they haven’t fulfilled them. Should a player of Berbatov’s quality, who knows he is being given the opportunity to play for Manchester United, play Champions League football, be expected to show smiles on the bench?
Berbatov had two years remaining on the four year deal he signed with Spurs, so wasn’t entitled to a move anywhere. However, in terms of the business of football, no club aspires to have a want-away player with just one year remaining on their contract, as their transfer worth diminishes rapidly, knowing their player could leave on a free the following summer. For Spurs to make serious money on the £10 million they paid for him, they had to sell him this summer.
Whilst I am firmly of the opinion that if you’ve signed a contract, the club are well within their rights to make sure the player sees out that deal, this doesn’t always mean it is the best result for player or club. In the case of Cristiano Ronaldo, he had only signed a 5-year-contract just over 12 months before talk of him leaving for Real Madrid arose. It was ridiculous that he could so soon after signing a lengthy contract engineer a move away from the club. Whatever Spurs fans might say, the situations are different.
However, for the idea to come about that Berbatov reacted differently than the vast majority of players would is fairly naive. It is simple fact that there are varying appeals of different clubs, going up in leagues. For a lot of players, United would be a more desirable club than Spurs. For a lot of players, Spurs would be more desirable club than Sunderland. For a lot of players, Sunderland would be a more desirable club than Bristol City. For a lot of players, Bristol would be a more desirable club than Southampton. And it goes on and on. Would a player at Sunderland be all smiles at the start of the season knowing Spurs wanted to sign them and they could be playing UEFA Cup football, but their club was holding out for a larger transfer fee that Spurs were seemingly willing to pay? Course not. Would a player at Bristol City be happy to play there knowing that a Premiership club were interested to sign them but they were being held back? Course not. The loyalty in the game is slowly fading away, with money and glory taking its place. And we really begrudge a player for wanting to perform on a level higher than they are already, surrounded by better players than they are already?
As I reported as the clock was ticking down, it would be down to Berbatov where he ended up playing. If he signed for City, it would confirm to us that his sulks at Spurs had all been in vain, and that the reality of the situation was he was just looking for a bigger pay packet. However, if he signed for United, we’d know that whilst the money wouldn’t be unwelcome, his desire to play for a massive club in the Champions League really was he reason for wanting out of Spurs.
However, Berbatov confirmed yesterday in refusing to even talk to City, whose owners could certainly afford and would pay more than United, that his move from Spurs really was initiated by his desires to play for us and to play Champions League football.
“If I want to play for the money, I would accept the Manchester City offer or Chelsea,” Berbatov said yesterday. “The red shirt is the really big thing for me. I want to play for the biggest club in the world. I am 27 now, I am at the biggest club in the world and maybe this could be the last step in my career. I know I can develop here in the way I always wanted. I always believed. People used to say ‘keep the faith’. I went through some difficult times and it was a long battle, but I always thought it was going to happen and in the end it did. Now I am here and hopefully I will play my part in the team and we can win lots of trophies as well. Trophies are an important thing in football and I want to help this team win more. I have handled pressure and expectation all through my life. I am not scared of it. That is why I am here. If I do that and play as I have done in my last two years at Tottenham, I don’t think there will be any problem.”
As for the game at Anfield in a fortnight’s time, Berbatov would love to play. “We live for the big games and I think this is the biggest,” he said. “I can’t wait to play.”
Viva Berbatov, eh?