By Mark Weasley
In the summer of 2008, Manchester United made a huge statement of intent when we signed Dimitar Berbatov. The player had been a marquee player for Tottenham in the previous two years, and was supposed to form a formidable attacking force with Ronaldo, Rooney and Carlos Tevez. The Bulgarian endeared himself to Old Trafford faithfuls with his classy first touch, close control and ability to draw out defenders to free the other attackers. United won the league and League cup in his first season, but he was often criticized for his perceived lack of effort and willingness to fight for the team.
Many argued that it was his style but it went deeper than that. Here was a player that felt he was too good to add effort, and though his career has been good, yet he could have achieved much more had he put in more work to get better.
A former teammate at Fulham, Brede Hangeland claimed that Berbatov enjoyed being massaged even more than building up his fitness, and that he spent hundreds of hours undergoing treatment by a masseuse. He left Old Trafford after four hugely successful years that are filled with many memorable moments: the 5-goal haul against Blackburn and the memorable hat trick against Liverpool, yet there is a consensus feeling that he could have even being in the bracket of the world’s best players if he had put in the extra graft.
He is currently a free agent, as he last played for PAOK in the 2015/16 season, and has been touted a signing for some lower tier clubs in England. His talent has never been in doubt, and should still represent decent value for any Championship side even at 36.
Berbatov was a wonderkid at CSKA Sofia and then signed for Bayer Leverkusen, appearing in the club’s run to the Champions League final in 2002. A player who came on to the scene pretty early, his later career has been beset by allegations of burnout as in the case of teenagers who started playing at a very early age. The likes of Rooney and Torres also suffered the same fate and have looked nothing like how they played in their early years.
A record of 280 career goals in over 650 matches smacks of a player that was good, but he should call it quits. He has not played competitively for more than a year, instead featuring in testimonial matches and displaying those skills that made him world famous.
A popular saying goes, “Hardwork beats talent if talent fails to work hard”. For a player so ridiculously talented, effort should have made him way better. The younger ones should learn.