In years hence though, all has been predictable. The daily abuse, the cheap cracks and descriptors starting with “l” are functions of a society inherently against footballers in the mold of Dimitar Berbatov.
Despite standing at six foot two, the Bulgarian hardly intimidates. His stature is slightly offset by a permanent slump of the shoulders and furrowing of the brow, two characteristics most manifest in times of struggle. And for Berbatov, struggle is never far away.
Quite apart from the expectation automatically applied to all Manchester United front players – especially ones that cost in excess of thirty million pounds – Berbatov is the subject of a special kind of scrutiny. There is an unshakable feeling among commentators and journalists alike that his case deserves questioning of an intensity normally only applied to England managers, brothel frequenters and John Terry.
To see Berbatov play is for many to have triggered a sort of righteous indignation, anger at an individual so distinctly different from the Premier League’s proletariat masses. The haughty exterior, hair band (until it was shorn a couple seasons ago) and deceptive, almost arrogant movement, all made great copy throughout each season of supposed under performance.
It is here however, that logic becomes flawed and evaluation teeters towards imbalance. In every appraisal, only the negative aspects of Berbatov’s profile are cited; his “lackadaisical” attitude, and “languid” style of play always shadow a superb touch and breathtaking range of passing. Perhaps though, he was always destined to be under appreciated. After all, this is the country whose national team rejected Le Tissier and alienated Hoddle. Sheer skill, unadulterated by buckets of sweat, just isn’t valued in England to the degree that it is in other European countries.
And contrast doesn’t help either. Alongside the bustling Wayne Rooney and feisty Javier Hernandez, Dimitar Berbatov looks every bit an extrovert, the antithesis of English football’s myopic ideology. He’s everything that the prosaic hum drum of traditional English forward play lacks, while at the same time short of everything it has. The immaculate touch and precision passing that define his game are wonderful, but they tend to be forgotten in a whirlwind of parochialism and cliche.
Now only visible a few fleeting times a month, Berbatov’s under rated Manchester United tenure is likely to take an undeserved place alongside that of Diego Forlan and Juan Sebastian Veron. Neither of them ever finished as United’s top scorer, though. Neither of them netted a hat trick against Liverpool, nor five in a single match.
The Premier League missed an opportunity in Dimitar Berbatov. A seemingly conscious, pre-meditated decision by the press has led to the undermining of all his most fantastic achievements; most obviously, the dismissal of his golden boot -it being too reliant on only a small number of games. While there is beauty in its current product, what England’s top flight is missing is a general acceptance of footballers cut from Berbatov’s intricate cloth. It’s that veneer of quality which Italians and Spaniards savor, a subtle brilliance that us English are too blunt to notice.