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Berbatov Not So Goal-Shy After All

Dimitar Berbatov

By Patrick Mather.

From reading newspaper reports this week, one could easily come to the conclusion that  Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov is a ringer – some sort of imposter posing as a professional footballer when actually his usual stage is on the Hackney Marshes turning out for the Dog & Duck.

Criticism is one thing, but totally ripping into both his character and his ability is out of order. Berbatov is the captain and record-goalscorer for his country, the fact that Bulgaria aren’t in the higher echelons of world football makes this achievement even more exceptional. 48 goals in 77 appearances is no mean feat and his record is far superior to that of Fernando Torres, 23 in 71, despite the fact that Torres plays for potentially the best side in the world, receiving service from the likes of Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Xavi.

The Bulgarian has been crowned Bulgarian Footballer of the Year on no less than six occasions, surpassing the record of the great Hristo Stoichkov. Yet Berbatov’s international appearances are rarely viewed by the majority so his domestic performances have to be taken into account.

On first reflection it seems obvious that Berbatov’s scoring record tfor Manchester United his season hasn’t been good enough. However, he has constantly been playing second fiddle to Wayne Rooney, whether finding himself on the bench as Fergie decides to go 4-5-1 or playing just in behind the striker in a more standard 4-4-2 system. It is in this particular position where Berbatov shines.

His link-up play is superb, utilising his exceptional first touch to bring Rooney into play as well as supplying the wingers – Valencia and Nani. This vision was demonstrated in the way he drifted past his marker and set-up Rooney for his second goal in the recent home win against Fulham.

The one player out of the Big Four sides who has consistently played in a similar role this season is Steven Gerrard. Although essentially he is a midfielder compared to Berbatov as a striker, they usually occupy a similar role on the field, a point aptly shown off in Liverpool’s hammering of Sunderland last weekend where Gerrard was effectively playing as a second striker. Of the two, Gerrard is much more highly revered but since the turn of the year he has only netted one goal in 874 minutes of play, that in contrast to Berbatov’s 6 in 582 minutes – a much better ratio. You may say the Liverpool skipper is there to set up goals and not score them and Berbatov the other way round, but they both have six assists for the season so Berbatov has done a much better job overall.

He also compares favourably to the majority of Premier League goalscorers. In this calendar year only Drogba, Torres, Rooney and Lampard (the latter two boosted by converted penalties) have a better minutes per goal ratio. That places Berbatov above England contenders like Zamora, Agbonlahor, Defoe, Bent and of course Emile Heskey, whilst also seeing him atop Fabregas, Anelka and self-proclaimed superstar Nicklas Bendtner.

Then comes his supposed nemesis, the man who caused so much controversy in Manchester and all because of the fact Berbatov was signed, Carlos Tevez. His goalscoring exploits have been well-documented this season but in 2010 his record is 9 goals in 900 minutes, 1 every 100 minutes, just behind Berbatov’s 1 every 97. So Berbatov is currently on better goalscoring form than a player who has been touted as a potential nominee for the PFA Player of the Year award.

These facts all stack up and prove Berbatov’s worth to Manchester United’s cause. Recent man of the match performances as a lone striker at both Molineux and the Reebok also show his adaptability. These are the reasons why Fergie didn’t ‘sign him up’ in the case of Tevez, and why he continues to keep faith with United’s number nine.

Whether you lean to terrier-like strikers who harass opposition defences, or skilful, laid-back forwards who let their ability do the talking, there is one thing everyone appreciates – a goalscorer – and on current form Dimitar Berbatov is the man for the job. Keep the faith.

What do you think of Berbatov’s contribution at Manchester United? Please leave your comments below….



  1. Soso Chulzy Petre

    April 5, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    I’ll go with Patrick Mather’s opinion about Berbatov. His old trafford switch from white hart lane has not been as disastrous as the press make it look. He has not had a good spell from an objective view but he has added to the manchester united course by being a team player who does more of the holding-up and link-up play bringing the best out of the wingers(Nani and Valencia), he falls deep and flings an unpredictable pass, splitting even the best of defences and giving the team a chance on goal. That already said, i must also state clearly that the giant Bulgarian has not lived up to expectation at old trafford. Almost all the fans were expecting more from him in front of goal but he doesn’t score goals (the barometer that measures every stricker in modern day football). Sir Alex will stick with him for another season or two but Berbatov must start thinking of repaying the gaffer’s faith in him or may end up like those big money buys that displayed concrete midiocrity and did not last long in a team many players dream of. I personally think he will come good very soon. Believe!!

    Aondosoo (Soso) Ichull Petre

  2. John

    April 5, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Wrong. This is quite a stupid article indeed. Everything said here just tried to make Berbatov look so good (It looks like a Berbatov lover tried to protect his favorite player), but concealing the fact that in reality he is actually not that good. 1:97 compared to 1:100 is just a meager/insignificant difference and you should only say – it is “very close”, not “better than”. This is one blatant way how this stupid writer twisted the stats and mingle the words just to make Berbatov look good on paper.

    Talk about skills, who said Berbatov is the skillful one? Tevez has better ALL-ROUND SKILLS than Berbatov in reality. For example, Tevez scored the solo goal (third goal) of his recent hat-trick that I don’t think Berbatov has the skills or talent to emulate. It is quite stupid to say Berbatov is the skillful one but don’t really look into the real picture.

    Berbatov’s skills are flamboyant and showy but ineffective at times, while Tevez’s skills are much more COMPLETE, straightforward, pragmatic/pratical and highly effective most of the time. This shows why people said Berbatov is a flop, while people never said Tevez as one despite having an unhappy last season with Man Utd (Thanks to Fergie playing favoritism).

    Effectiveness and influence of Tevez to the games is shown through the pitch all the time and this has stats to prove it as well – Actim index. Camparing Tevez’s effective influence most of the time to Berbatov’s anonymous influence at times and said Berbatov is better player than Tevez is an insult to Tevez.

  3. Jean Moore

    April 5, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    If Fergie adopted the 4-4-2 system instead of the boring 4-5-1 just to cross and cross and cross… , Berbatov would have performed even worse than now and his statistics could be quite awful. Simply because with the current bunch of players especially the midfielders, Man Utd can’t afford to play 4-4-2 as it would expose lack of quality in midfield. Adopting 4-5-1 gave them strength and width in the midfield and let the two wingers in Nani and Valencia to cross and cross and cross the balls inside the penalty area so that Rooney had a better chance to score and the team had better chance to win the games. This is also why Man Utd got so many “own goals” gifted by oppositions this season – fast cross made defenders panic and Man Utd ripped the benefits. 4-5-1 suits “mechanical-like” players like Fletcher, Carrick, Park well and effective enough to win games thus Fergie used it all the time this season. But it is still a boring way to play football and the weakness in the team cannot be concealed forever with a system.

    If 4-4-2 system is used more, Man Utd may not win as many games as they have been capable of now because of the weakness in midfield (and/or some other area, forwards perhaps). If that happened, Rooney and Berbatov partnership could suffer and both their stats could look awful. Berbatov benefited for playing less with 4-5-1 and his stats remain acceptable as Man Utd kept winning more games. But it could be a totally different story if Man Utd heavily depended on him and Rooney as partnership up-front. If he is unreliable to win games after games playing regularly, his stats could become awful.

  4. Patrick Mather

    April 5, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Re John
    At no point do I say who is the better of the two players. All I comment on is the media bias towards Tevez compared to Berbatov. The stats that I use don’t comment on who is more technically gifted, just on the goalscoring stats as Berbatov is often criticised for a lack of goals. If you look at the title of the article it is clearly not intended to be a dig at Tevez. Comparing the two in terms of minutes per goal merely highlights that with more playing time, Berbatov could possibly have matched Tevez in his goalscoring. It is also interesting how it is wrong (according to you) for me to use the stats in this way but apparently right for you to suggest that Tevez is clearly better when viewing other stats.
    Also having seen both players first hand over the past four or five years, I can assure you that Berbatov is a much more skillful player.

  5. Irvine G

    April 5, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Berbatov is a much more skillful player? Lol.

    The truth is, Tevez has similar skills like Maradona plus Ronaldo the Brazilian (Both these greatest players are his idols. Surprised?). Sometimes we heard people said how Maradona would play in present modern football, in fact they simply just have to take a closer look at how Tevez and Messi play to get the answer.

    Tevez can dribble and move cleverly, hold up the ball firmly and send the defenders/goalkeepers off-guard or wrong-footed them, and etc. All these are like Maradona. He can also shoot and score amazing and unbelievable great goals like Brazil Ronaldo. Messi is from another planet with his amazing skills, but Tevez is like Maradona and Brazil Ronaldo combined in one tough little all-round complete top-class player.

    So, to say Berbatov is a much more skillful player is like an insult to the greatest Maradona too (besides an insult to Tevez). Maradona was never classy and flamboyant with his skills as well but he is still the most complete and best all-round players of all time, with great skills of course. Berbatov much more skillful? Don’t make me laugh.

    By the way, Actim Index mentioned by John is official player ratings system of EPL. It should be good enough to tell the story – who is the best. Berbatov can’t play regularly for some reasons, perhaps one obvious reason is that, no matter how skillful he is, the fact is – he is indeed unreliable. Reliable players won’t be content to sit on the bench all the time.

  6. Patrick Mather

    April 5, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    The actim index has Rooney only in fifth and Dirk Kuyt ahead of Fernando Torres. It isnt a reflection of who is a better player.

  7. Zim

    April 5, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    only an idiot would say berbatov is more skillful than tevez…

  8. Patrick Mather

    April 5, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Or someone who knows what the word skillful actually means.
    One example – Berbatov’s first touch is miles better.
    being more skillful doesn’t mean better overrall, it just means being better at skill.
    Just like Cristiano Ronaldo is more skillful than Messi, but he is not necessarily better

  9. Norman

    April 5, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    First of all get your facts right. Tevez turned united down after being messed about by fergie and Gill who was after a player who then signed for Madrid. Everyone has their opinion but I think you are in a minority I would think every premiership manager would have Tevez over Berbetov. Sometimes skill is not enough. His all round game is far more valuable to any team. He will be the one player who drags Man City into The top 4.
    Ask yourself who will be nominated for end of season awards Berbatov of Tevez…..Simples!

  10. Patrick Mather

    April 6, 2010 at 11:46 am

    The Benzema deal came after the Tevez affair was being concluded.
    And once again I haven’t said who I see as the better player. I just tried to show that Berbatov has received undue criticism.

  11. ejdur

    April 8, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Fergie wanted to sigh with Benzema but his season in Real Madrid is a total failure and they want to get rid of him. He has scored only 7 goals during this season and Real M. paid for him the same amount of money as Man. Utd gave for Berbatov.

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