Dimitar Berbatov and the criticisms that don’t quite add up
No wonder he frowns all the time. Dimitar Berbatov must be wondering what he’s done so wrong in his Manchester United career; while he isn’t flawless nor is he immune from criticism there is something that sets Berbatov apart from the rest. He is the darling of the aesthetes and rather unorthodox for a forward, meaning he will not be appreciated by all corners as, say, Javier Hernandez. And when there are admirers, there are those who object.
Football is quite simple; and there has never been a player, no matter how great, without a flaw. From all the criticism Berbatov seems to get, many seem to be unjust – in fact, this article, written by a realist rather than an apologist, attempts to explode the myths and other unfair labels. (Amidst all the recent speculation over his career, and some discouragingly infuriating comments on Twitter, I felt this needed to be done…)
“He cost £30m, so he must do better. I demand it!”
If Andy Carroll turns out to be what the lovely people at the media label a ‘flop’, then many will point to his £35million price tag with unforgiving eyes. It’s a tad unfair on him if that were to happen; after all, he is no control of what a team pays for him. In fact, it is perhaps more flattering for every extra millions of pounds. For Berbatov, his actual valuation should have no bearing of what you think of him as a player – the transfer market has changed over time and has rapidly become inflated (see Joleon Lescott). In truth, his value is still somewhere in the region of £20m+ if you were to consider talent rather than age or an expiring contract; not to mention that his three years for the club have been convincing enough, regardless. This
essay analysis of Berbatov is essential reading.
“That bloody Bulgarian needs to score goals, damn it!”
Ah, these days were fun. He cost £30m so he should score. Blah, blah. The fickleness of some; while it was true that Berbatov had scored frequently for both Bayer Leverkusen and Tottenham, he was not signed for his goals alone. His link up play and ability to drop deep and allow others to get involved in play has been effective; both Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney would agree. That said, his conversion rate for United is still something for others to desire.
“I’ve change my mind. Now, I think goals aren’t everything.”
For the dissenters nowadays, there is a very popular argument – that “goals aren’t everything” so being joint recipient of the Golden Boot last season doesn’t matter for the player who scored 20 times. It’s quite frankly laughable – indeed, it was the same people who moaned about the lack of conversion in previous seasons from the delightful Bulgarian. When you think about, no, Berbatov is not your typical goalscorer – that’s not his game but that’s what made last season all the more extraordinary. The word ‘genius’ is an apt description of this man and not such hyperbole; for he started the season in a rather unfamiliar (in his United career, that is) higher position and was able to adjust with much success.
“He’s not a big game player. End of story.”
This is one is certainly unfair rather than untrue. This argument really came to prominence in the 2009/10 season – but statistics show that United picked up 52 points against the bottom half that season, but only 33 against the top sides. What that suggests is that United really haven’t flourished in the so-called “big games” – and for a player to effective, the other ten around him have to click also. That aside, he has performed notably in two games of importance – the 3-0 win against Chelsea in 2009, and then the 3-2 triumph over Liverpool in September 2010. In the latter, he scored a hattrick – meaning many had climbed onto his bandwagon. As you do.
“He’s lazy, don’t you know? And he sulks!”
Lazy? Not on Berbatov’s watch – “I’m not lazy – I just make everybody else look good!.” Ironically, dismissing him as ‘lazy’ is perhaps a rather lazy thing to say; while his unfazed exterior screams a man who can’t be bothered, he’s actually far more active than given credit for. His failure to track back might remain an issue; but that doesn’t suggest he is ‘lazy’, more so that he’s just like many other forwards on the planet. Instead, lazy should be defined as somebody who doesn’t care and so doesn’t really contribute – yet Berbatov does so by creating chances and making space. In the 09/10 season, he actually created more goalscoring chances per 90 mins in open play last season than any striker in the league (via @OptaJoe) – and the year previous, created the second most assists in the League. That does not sound a player who fails to contribute.
“But he sulks,” I hear you say. True, but that’s only a problem because people have made it so. After being left out of the Wembley Final, he admitted he was very upset not to play, but seemed defiant to do better – as if it was his fault, which is certainly was not. Furthermore, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney are no strangers to sulking – in fact, they’re probably guilty of doing it more often than the Bulgarian. But, of course, we won’t say that about them. Inconsistencies of a football fan, this is.
“He missed chances against Manchester City. Grab your pitchforks!”
When Yaya Toure put City 1-0 in the FA Cup Semi Final last season, fingers were pointed at two men; Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov. It would seem understandable because Carrick was not only below-par but it was his error that led to the decisive goal. Berbatov, however, is the man we shall focus on – he missed chances. And good ones, too. Most of the time he’d put them away, but not in this game. So it is fair to criticise him partly for the defeat; however, that is no game to base your judgements on him. Indeed, most people who cite this game dismiss the 7-1 win over Blackburn where Berbatov scored five goals – concluding that it’s highly unlikely that’ll happen again. Obviously, five goals is just an everyday achievement any random fool can do it.