Former Spurs star has Arsenal in his sights once again
Dimitar Berbatov is proving to be a hit at Fulham, and will be back at the Emirates on Saturday
It is sometimes overlooked that Manchester United paid Tottenham �30.75m for the services of Dimitar Berbatov.
The Bulgarian may have helped United win Premier League titles and reach Champions League finals since then, but there is no doubting that the transfer now ranks among one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s most expensive mistakes.
After four difficult years at Old Trafford, there were quite a few eyebrows raised when Berbatov swapped the glamour of the Theatre of Dreams for the rather more homely surroundings of Craven Cottage back in August.
The move was not a total surprise given that the Fulham manager, Martin Jol, was the man who first brought Berbatov to England back in 2006 when the Dutchman managed Tottenham.
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They only had one full season together at White Hart Lane, but Berbatov scored 23 goals in 2006-7 and it was enough for Jol to know that the qualities possessed by the Bulgarian would not necessarily have diminished during his disappointing stint at Old Trafford.
Berbatov is now 31, but started only 12 games for United last season and has retired from international football. The only surprise was that, with due respect to Fulham, a bigger club weren’t tempted to take a chance on him.
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Could that even have been Arsenal? Signing 30-somethings approaching the end of their careers is not something Arsene Wenger makes a habit of, but Berbatov appears to still have plenty to offer.
“If I feel that the coach is trusting in my ability then I can do special things on the pitch,” said Berbatov. “I just want to play every game and when I do this and I’m healthy with no injuries then the supporters can see the way I play football. I know the coach, he trusts me, he trusts my ability. I feel good if the coach trusts the way I play.”
After six years on these shores, Berbatov certainly didn’t need any settling in time at Fulham. He has scored three goals in six appearances, and the Cottagers are yet to lose when he starts a game.
His presence has been most welcome for Jol, who was reeling by the end of the summer transfer window after losing Clint Dempsey and Mousa Dembele to Spurs, while Danny Murphy also left for Blackburn.
Berbatov is not the only former big name enjoying himself down by the river as the likes of 32-year-old John Arne Riise and Damien Duff (33) are both prospering while veteran keeper Mark Schwarzer, who so nearly moved to Arsenal in 2010, is still going strong at 40.
Greece’s Euro 2004-winning captain Giorgios Karagounis is another player in the autumn of his career who Jol snapped up in September, the 35-year-old midfielder being a free agent after leaving Panathinaikos.
With an ageing central defensive duo of Aaron Hughes (32) and Brede Hangeland (31), the Dad’s Army tag could be a justifiable label for Fulham. Right-back Sascha Riether, a former team-mate of Lukas Podolski at Cologne, is the only member of the back five under 30, and he is 29.
But experience is clearly counting for something, as Fulham arrive at the Emirates unbeaten in their last four games with their only defeat in the last seven being a very narrow 2-1 defeat to champions Manchester City.
Fulham fans need no reminding, however, that they have never won away at Arsenal in 26 attempts spanning 108 years.
If Berbatov’s effortless brilliance can help bring an end to that dismal record, he really would begin to look like the signing of the season.