The search for Tottenham’s new number 9 seems to be gathering pace. With reports coming out of Spain from AS suggesting a move for Valencia’s Roberto Soldado may be in the offing. However, with such a deal likely to break the Premier League club’s transfer record are they not better off taking a risk on a cheaper proven alternative?
Dimitar Berbatov joined Tottenham from Leverkusen in July 2006 for a fee believed to be around the £10m mark. He gained great acclaim for 2 excellent seasons at White Hart Lane where he formed a fantastic partnership with Irishman Robbie Keane. A lazy and at times slothful figure, Spurs fans were won over by his sublime footballing skill which many to this day will remember fondly. He departed the club as part of a protracted saga with Manchester United, in a deal worth around £30m.
Berbatov even at a younger age was never a footballer to rely on out and out pace. His skill and trickery were enough to undo any defence and at the age of 32 this is still very much the case. A stellar year at Fulham where he has netted 15 goals in all competitions shows that the Bulgarian still possesses much the same talents that made him such an icon at Spurs. Upon re-signing the Bulgarian for Fulham, Martin Jol made the following endorsement whilst speaking to the clubs website:
“Dimitar is a player I’ve always admired. He’s a player of great quality and technical ability who will give me the attacking option I’ve been looking for. When he’s not scoring goals, his ingenuity often leads chances being created for his team-mates.”
It would be incredibly short sighted of me to think that this is the long-term solution to all Spurs striking problems, because it simply isn’t. However, Berbatov would offer an improvement on the current crop of strikers without placing too much of a burden on the finances. Defoe is often harshly criticized for his inability to contribute anything of worth whilst he himself isn’t scoring. By contrast as Jol outlines, Berbatov is not only an excellent goalscorer but he can also add to the creativity in the final third. Personally I think Berbatov would be an excellent second striker for Villas-Boas to bring off the bench when Spurs are struggling to break the opposition down. His enigmatic footballing character makes him the sort of player to create that necessary last minute opening when others cannot.
The Bulgarian became notorious at Spurs for his European cup pedigree. His 12 goals in 16 UEFA Cup appearances were key to a couple of decent cup runs for the club. With a busy schedule likely for the North Londoners next term, Berbatov could be extremely useful as an option in cup football.
Could Spurs fans forgive him for the United debacle? It is always difficult when a club puts so much faith in a player, only for the player to turn his back when a better offer comes along. He showed a lack of respect to Tottenham during his move and this is something which he will need to earn back rapidly. Would Spurs be lacking self-respect if they made a move for the Bulgarian? I would expect the Spurs hierarchy would be making the move for financial and footballing reasons if this deal were to happen. If the Gallas and Adebayor deals happened, then Berbatov certainly isn’t beyond the realms of possibility. For Levy the only real emotion here is one of quiet satisfaction at largely ripping off United in an overpriced £30m deal.
Would the Bulgarian want to come? Berbatov is a man with an overblown ego, with a belief the team should be built around him. At Fulham this is exactly the case. If he were to move back to Spurs he would be nothing more than a glamorised squad player, who would do his fair share of bench warming. In his early days this would have been an obscene suggestion for the Bulgarian, but now in the twilight of his career it is something he may just have to accept. The trade-off being that plausibly Spurs offer him the ability to have one last shot at achieving trophy success. Not only this but Spurs possess a far greater calibre of footballer than when he left. Sitting at the head of a dynamic midfield of Dembele, Paulinho and Sandro, he will have the supply that most frontman could only dream about.
For Tottenham as a club this deal is a risk worth taking. The player would be extremely cheap due to his age and current contract length. Should the move not work out for the club, a small transfer fee is easily written off. On the current market there really isn’t a great depth in striking talent for this kind of price. A top rated striker at the peak of his careers will set a club back £20m, whereas Berbatov with a few years left in him would represent a fraction of that. One of the most talented footballers to play for Spurs in the last decade or so, this man still has a lot left to offer.
Would you be happy with the Bulgarian at Spurs?