Is Dimitar Berbatov running out of time?


There is no doubt that Dimitar Berbatov is a fine footballer who is capable of genius at times.  However, there is no doubt that there is an element of frustration around Old Trafford when Bulgaria’s top  goalscorer ever gets into a strop and throws his hands up in the air.  His hefty price tag hasn’t helped, considering we would have got him for around £10 million less had Manchester City not come in for him – but I think we’d all agree that we all gawped at the £30.75 million fee was a tad too much.  This blog looks at his movement, passes and goals against former United strikers.

As I said in the intro, I think Berbatov is a superb footballer who is capable of doing things some players can only dream of. Watching from the east stand against Wigan last Wednesday, I saw him knock a ball towards the Stretford End with the outside of his boot for Valencia to run onto. A brilliant pass that highlighted his flair, creativity and grace as a the talented number nine we all know he is. Five minutes later he blazed a cross into the crowd when under no pressure – “you don’t get much for thirty million these days!” I heard an older Red say.

As a forward in European football, all of the top clubs look for a striker that is versatile, a player who can drop deeper for either a tactical shift (and allow midfielders to bomb on) OR a player that offers defensive qualities that an out and out striker (or fox in the box) doesn’t. He performed exceptionally out in the San Siro last February – leading the line with Ryan Giggs playing off him. Internazionale fans were used to watching a skillful maverick terrorising defences with his artistry, sublime goals and ability to hold the ball up (Ibrahimovic). For all the criticism ‘Zlatan’ receives – there is no doubting the quality he has. The same can be said for Berbatov in my book, but something is missing from his game at the moment. Could it be that he is still recovering from injury? Or could it be that he isn’t getting the service?

Since he made his debut in the 2-1 defeat to Liverpool last season he has found the back of the net 19 times in 64 games (fourteen as a sub) – which constitutes to a 0.30 goals per game ratio. Not bad, but £30.75 Million worth? In the 23 games he has played this season, he has notched up six goals (all in the Premier League), which works out at 0.26 goals per game. Compare that to Rooney’s record of 0.63 goals per game or Michael Owen’s 0.30 goals per game (with fourteen of those twenty four appearances as a sub) – it is clear to see that Berbatov’s goal scoring isn’t the stand out record you might expect from a £30Million striker. Now, I fully realise that goals aren’t everything from a forward these days but we hardly building all of our attacks around Berbatov’s ability to hold the ball up with runners off of him. Are we expecting too much from Berbatov?

So to compare him to former United strikers over recent years – Louis Saha (0.34 goals per game United career – 48 as sub), Henrik Larsson (0.23 goals per game United career – 3 as sub), Carlos Tevez (0.36 goals per game United career – 26 goals per game). I’ve grabbed a couple of screenshots highlighting some statistics from the three very different forwards over the past four years.

First up Louis Saha against Fulham in 2006 in the opening game if the season:

Louis Saha Passes

Louis Saha Shots

Compared to Berbatov’s performance against Birmingham this season:

Dimitar Berbatov Passes Birmingham

Dimitar Berbatov shots against Birmingham

Firstly, I fully realise that one game doesn’t define a player. We should use these stats over a period of time, but to be totally honest – I don’t have the capability to analyse stats like that. However, taking a look at the above stats – we can draw the following conclusions:

  • Louis Saha made himself available all over the pitch, both attacking and defensively. Berbatov on the other hand didn’t pass anywhere near as many balls as the Frenchman and was generally restricted to the attacking third.
  • Saha was more prolific in front of goal scoring a goal from his four shots on goal. Berbatov failed to hit the target with his three shots (whilst strike partner Wayne Rooney managed ten in the game and netted our winner in the first half)

Carlos Tevez against Portsmouth in 2007/08:

Carlos Tevez passes pompey

Tevez shots Portsmouth

  • Tevez was more busy around the pitch, although was generally restricted to the attacking half (Rooney was injured that game so he was the main striker).
  • Shot weren’t impressive with both efforts off target.

As I said, these screenshots do not capture the whole picture – although in my opinion, sums up the performance of Berbatov since his move to Old Trafford. This season he has notched up six goals and three assists. Compare that to Samuel Eto’o (a player I thought we should have taken a gamble on) who has scored eight goals in sixteen games in Serie A (0.5 goals per game ratio) and two assists or Zlatan Ibrahimovic who has scored eleven goals in fourteen games (0.78 goals per game) and has four assists. Closer to home – we’ve gone through Wayne Rooney’s scoring ratio – Defoe and Drogba have fourteen goals in eighteen games (0.77 goals per game) whilst former United strikers Saha (0.47 goals per game) and Tevez (0.45 goals per game) have scored ten and nine goals respectively. Compare those to Berbatov’s 0.26 goals per game – and we can clearly see that so far this season the Bulgarian isn’t replicating his impressive scoring rate for his country.

So to conclude – Berbatov is a fine footballer, a graceful forward that is capable of producing moments of magic – either in the form of a well crafted pass or a sublime piece of skill. However, his statistics aren’t too impressive for a £30 million forward and although our style of play has changed over the past two seasons (which i’m sure Craig Mc will remind me!) – you would expect more from a player that oozes class. His penalty against Everton in the semi-final last season was embarrassing and his reaction annoying. He did miss the whole of November through injury and i’m fully aware that it takes time to get your match fitness back, but I think we’ll all agree – we expected a little more from our number nine this term.

15 Comments on Is Dimitar Berbatov running out of time?

  1. Absolute rubbish. You are talking about 3 different teams and era’s. I would rather have a fit striker who wants to play for us rather than Mr Glass and Mr Money Grabbing Whore any day of the week. Louis was a great striker when he was fit but I use that big word, “was”. Tevez was brilliant for his energy but his goals return was rubbish with him failing to even hit the target on most occassions. Berba just needs to relax and let his footy do the talking. everyone goes on about his 1 goal in 2 games stat. This season he has 1 in 3 which aint too bad for a drop off striker….as he has become. You are seeing the best out of Rooney as a pay off and for me….well thats enough.

  2. Completely disagree about eras, and besides its hardly comparing Charlie Mitten with Gabriel Obertan is it!!!? So you’re saying that the Best/Giggs comparisons were ‘absolute rubbish’?

    I even stated in the blog that teams change, styles change – however are you stating that Dimitar Berbatov has proven value for money since he signed? If so why did Fergie opt not to play him against Arsenal in the Champions League semi final, which saw (arguably – before I offend anyone else) the finest performance of last season? I know, I know – Berbatov was also omitted from the final in which United were woeful against a brilliant Barca – however, I doubt Berbatov playing up top with Ronaldo out wide instead of Park would have worked either the way the night went – but then I guess we’ll never know.

    Saha had injury problems but was a great forward, it is a shame how it ended for him.

  3. Fans are too quick to focus on his price tag. It wasn’t Berbatov’s fault United paid £30 million for him. Yet, he is the one getting the critism for it. Fergie had the chance to sign him before Tottenham grabbed their hands on him.

    He’s been constantly pressured from the fans from day one. Fans on phone-in shows were saying he was a mistake after the first couple of weeks. Hardly the show of support one our players deserves.

    He’s also been labeled as lazy but didn’t United fans know who Berba was before he signed on the dotted line. Fergie bought Berba for the type of player he was at Tottenham and he hasn’t changed.

  4. Trust me. If this season, he still can’t perform well. Then in the summer he is got to go. I seen him complaining and putting his hand up in the air more than his presence on the field. His hand up in the air makes me realised he is on the field! How amazing is that? Without him complaining, he seems like not on the field playing. Oh my.

  5. Indy – many thanks for your comments and hopefully I can explain myself a little more.

    Firstly, I think Berbatov is class footballer (as stated in the blog). I believe that I have covered that his game isn’t all about goals BUT regardless of the fact that he didn’t negotiate his own transfer fee, we have to ask ourselves have we got value for money so far? I’m not blaming Berbatov, i’m merely posing the question? Why did Fergie not act sooner before City got involved? Why didn’t we snap him up from Bayern Leverkusen before Spurs did (as you mentioned)?

    Do you think I was having a pop at Berbatov? I don’t think so. I’m just merely highlight some statistics that I thought Reds would appreciate whilst posing the question ‘Have we got value for money for Berbatov?’ – Its not a pop at the player, I think he is a genius, but his goals per game ratio and general influence (played in Burnley, Liverpool and Besiktas – as sub – defeats) haven’t been as much as maybe some of us expected.

    But look what he is capable of – one of the best goals i’ve ever seen:

  6. A good post, original and worth reading.

    Berbaflop isn’t a United player. He isn’t for numerous reasons. Firstly he is lazy, secondly he doesn’t keep up with play and even when Rooney is playing with him it is like Rooney is playing on his own Berbaflop is miles behind play. Thirdly you need players who can produce critical moments in a game when it really counts, Rooney and Giggs are the only players who can do this on a regular basis for United nowadays.

    Fourthly United’s game most of the time has been about pace and breakaway and catching teams out. Berbaflop cannot do this and slows our attacks down.

    People say he is like Cantona, what a joke that is. Cantona was a match winner and created countless opportunities for his team mates especially Cole. And produced in big games. Cantona also wasn’t slow and didn’t hold our team back on quick breakaways.

    Tevez was a far superior player and suited united’s style. Also with Berbaflop Rooney is forced to play as a main striker which isn’t his best role. Rooney should be played in the hole, he can do everything and more what Berbaflop offers.

    Berbaflop is Fergie’s worst ever buy.

    Looking at the present United team if we are going to get back to being the best team in the world again we need a major rebuilding. We require in the next 12 months a keeper, may be a right back although Rafael might be able to compete with O’Shea and Brown and develop in to a top class player, although I think midfield is the way for both brothers as defensively they are suspect.

    I also think we need at least one midfield player a goalscoring midfield player to play with Fletcher who is our only world class midfield player.

    Wingers, I like Valencia and Obertan but I am far from certain both will be in the Beckham, Kanchelskis, Giggs, Ronaldo, Sharpe class. And that is what we require. We also
    require a striker such as a Vila or Benzema et al to partner Rooney. Although i have been told Diouf is a special talent. I also like Macheda but if I hadn’t heard Fergie go on and on about Welbeck I wouldn’t have thought he had much chance. But Fergie is God so he must have something.

    Do we have funds, I am beginning to doubt it as the old Fergie would not be a shrinking violet if he knew we required major rebuilding.

  7. i sincerly disagree with u,berbagoal is the best striker thats well compatible or suite rooney style of play.tell me wen have u seen roodgoal score fifteen or fourteen in 19 apperance in united shirt.all we needed is good left winger and if fergie is not willing 2spend,i think we already gt one bt ferguson is not giving the lad a gud chance to show is talent……tosic,mark my word,if that lad should leave us,we gonn leave 2regret leave berba alone and let it do his magic,he is God sent to rescue us.wat more do u wnt from a loyal servant.

  8. His burden,
    the £30M. numbers.
    like it was his fault.

    He appears to me,
    the kind of player,
    who didn’t need the burden
    of this/that expectation,
    and the intensity
    of an endless £30M eyes scrutiny,
    every pass, every game, every sub,
    every injury.

    People tend to forget this game, too,
    is so mental.

  9. Berba’s price tag and performances are not value for money.

    People are saying he has to go in the summer (should be not perform), however how much so you think we’d actually get for him based on what he has produced in the past two seasons?

  10. People say its not berbatov’s fault we paid 30 million

    no. but part of being a united player is having a strong mentality and the ability to cope with all kinds of pressure. berbatov clearly does not have this if the price tag is getting to him so much

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