Four was certainly the number as far as Dimitar Berbatov was concerned yesterday. Exactly four years to the day since the Bulgarian’s involvement in arguably the most dramatic of all transfer deadline days, Berbatov was once again the talk of sport news desks up and down the country.
First he was expected in Italy but never arrived, then rumours circulated of him rejoining Tottenham, before he finally put pen to paper at Fulham. The fee? £ 4 million. Remarkably, this figure is some £26 million shy of the money Manchester United paid for his services in 2008. Even taking depreciation value into consideration, this represents a staggering fall in price over a four year period.
So who are the winners of this transfer? Perhaps the main beneficiary of all is Berbatov himself. At the age of 31, Berbatov has been handed a lucrative contract, with reports that Fulham have matched the £100,000 a week wages he was on at Old Trafford. Secondly, his wish to remain in the Premier League has been granted, and his demand for regular first team football is likely to be met, a guarantee that couldn’t be offered at Old Trafford.
As for Man United, there will be mixed emotions regarding Berbatov’s departure. On the positive side, they have removed a player from the wage bill who was way down the hierarchy of strikers, with Van Persie, Rooney, Hernandez and Wellbeck all preferred by Sir Alex Ferguson. Yet, making such a loss on a player whom so much was expected will hurt. To say he was a flop at Old Trafford would be going too far, but the high expectations never really materialised and the high price tag never justified.
So what about Fulham? Owner Al Fayed insisted throughout the transfer window that he wanted to bring in a top name that would excite the fans. Berbatov certainly falls into that category. At £4 million, many will believe that the Cottagers have found themselves a real bargain, but that figure is offset by the lucrative wages built into the contract.
On the pitch, there is no questioning Berbatov’s ability as a striker, and you can be sure that many Fantasy Football managers will be quickly slotting him into their sides over the coming days. The success of this transfer depends primarily on which Berbatov turns up. On his day there are few better attackers in the Premier League, but too often he goes missing in games and looks disinterested.
Being reunited with Martin Jol may help get the best out of Berbatov, and then Fulham will be the real winners.