Dimitar Berbatov was the Premier League’s top scorer seven months ago and lifted a record breaking 19th title with Manchester United. He has been fourth choice striker at the club this season though, behind Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez.
The club tried to sell the striker in the summer following his omission from the Champions League final squad but the player wasn’t having any of it, determined to stay on our books and fight for his place and has behaved admirably since.
Whilst Berbatov’s contract expires in the summer, meaning he would be allowed to leave for free, United have the option to extend his deal by a further year. If you are to believe the manager, that is what the club is intending to do.
“There is absolutely no reason for me to let him go,” Ferguson said last month. “He is an outstanding footballer and we will give the extra year. He plays a great role and he trains well. He has no complaints. The boy is a great professional and we are happy for him to be here. You need a good number of strikers in the modern day. If you look back to 1999, we had four great strikers. They all played their part. That is exactly what will happen today.”
However, Berba is one of the highest earners at the club and if the policy from the summer is to be continued, where we saw the likes of Wes Brown and John O’Shea replaced with younger players on much smaller wages, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him leave in January, when at least we could get some sort of a transfer fee for him too. It’s a disgrace to think we could sell him whilst keeping the likes of Federico Macheda and Mame Biram Diouf but that’s a possibility under the Glazer ownership.
Speaking to Bild, Berbatov’s representative, Ivan Dobrinov, has claimed the talk of the Bulgarian returning to his former club, Bayer Leverkusen, is not just a rumour. United will let the player know in the next week whether his deal will be extended for another year, and if it’s not, he will be free to leave in January.
“It’s more than a rumour,” Dobrinov said. “Leverkusen have it on their minds to get Berbatov. There is contact, but nothing concrete yet. It all depends on United’s plans. We wait until 2nd January. Until then, United have the option but if that does not happen then Berbatov would be a free transfer in the summer. The player has never forgotten Leverkusen, the club is still very dear to him. Furthermore, he has a good relationship with the leadership at Bayer.”
Yesterday Leverkusen CEO Wolfgang Holzhauser was reported to have confirmed the interest.
“I would even say that the contact is friendly. But there is certainly nothing concrete at the moment. I also read that Manchester United would like to extend his contract.”
Today though, following an interview with Deutsche Presseagentur, Holzhauser claims Berbatov’s agent is just stirring things and that they haven’t tried to sign him.
“A transfer of Dimitar Berbatov to our club is pure speculation and we will not partake in this gossip,” he said. “Things have been forced by his agents and it displeases me to know that. We have remained in close contact with Dimitar since he left the club but this is purely on an amicable basis.”
In just his second league start of the season against Wigan, Berbatov scored a hattrick, showing that he still has a part to play. Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck were both given a rest and the Bulgarian ensured we got three points regardless. Will he be happy to be used in this way? I don’t see why not, considering that’s how he ended last season.
“My mind was always set on joining Manchester United,” he said two months ago. “How can you not go to United? I don’t play for money. I play for glory and winning championships. I’m happy here. My family is together in Manchester. I hear people complain about the weather, there’s nothing to do and the food. But, for me, it’s not like that. I play for a club I love, the biggest club, and everything else doesn’t matter.”
We would have to understand if he chose to leave though because he is too good to be used as sparingly as he is at United. Leverkusen’s top scorer this season is Eren Derdiyok on 6 goals which a tally Berba would obviously feel confident of beating. Berbatov spent six seasons at Leverkusen and according to his agent would have no problem with returning. He turns 31-years-old next month and this could be his last opportunity to sign a big contract. However, it would be quite a step down to join Leverkusen, who are currently 6th in the Bundesliga.
“Manchester United are at the top,” he said in the summer. “Where can you go from there? If you go somewhere else it is a big step down.” Is he prepared to make the big step down? Will United make that decision for him? Four days until we find out…