La Liga

Re:Berba – Re:Placements

It’s been an exasperating season for Dimitar Berbatov. His frustration, his anxiousness, his self-consciousness, could all be encapsulated by his four yard header against Stoke which floated teasingly, despairingly over the goal.

Berbatov’s forlorn face and listless countenance gives the impression he has been imbued with the very diametric opposite of the Midas touch.

It’s not surprising that he has become the scapegoat de jour. The 29-year-old did, after all, sign the dotted line on a transfer worth £30.75 million pounds – the event unfolding live on Sky Sports cameras candidly spying through Old Trafford’s curtains as though it was some kind of scripted voyeuristic drama; roll back the tapes and I swear you’ll hear Ed Chamberlain grunting as pen was put to paper.

Digression aside, it was a momentous occasion for the Bulgarian and for the club. “A lot of money was spent on me, and people expected things from out of this world,” said the Bulgarian in his recent press conference.

Expecting something extra-terrestrial is obviously hyperbole, but Berbatov barely got off the ground in his first season. His particular low-point came in the form of a shameful penalty against Everton in the FA Cup semi-final – a penalty that nonchalantly ambled towards the goal-line, not much unlike the striker himself. Fortunately, with United’s title win, Berbatov escaped the focus of the boo boys who were prepared to give him another season. This year he has not been so lucky.

The striker, who has scored 12 goals in 33 appearances this season –actually one more than Nicholas Anelka, has come increasingly under-fire for his ineptitude in front of goal. The floundering header against Stoke is in a collection of countless others, and Ferguson’s disinclination to use him against Bayern Munich in the Champions League spoke volumes.

In essence, Berbatov struggles to fit into the United blue-print. Ronaldo, Tevez and Rooney are all inexhaustible, interchangeable, agile forwards. The key to their combined success was that the opposition had no idea where they would pop-up on the pitch and therefore who had to mark who. Berbatov, on the other hand, is simple to mark, and has often been forced to track back to receive the ball, leaving him absent in effective forward areas. There’s no doubt the lack of confidence derived from early poor performances went on to breed deprecatingly in Berbatov’s fertile mind and consequently grew stronger as chance after chance was scorned.

With that said, how can Ferguson cut his losses on a striker that cost so much? No club will be prepared to offer an astronomical amount for him while only an astronomical amount will buy anyone better than him. If the conditions are ripe and the money is available, however, Ferguson has quite an extensive array of stellar talents to consider.

Sergio “Kun” Aguero, could be top of that list. His performance against Fulham in the Europa Cup final foretold of the job he could do in the Premier League. He’s nimble, quick thinking and technically gifted. He also seems to prefer dropping deep to assist the midfield and the wingers and doesn’t dismiss unglamorous legwork. Furthermore, appears willing to take the rough and tumble, much like another certain Argentinian. A perfect candidate perhaps?

Elsewhere, rumours surrounding Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuian have recently taken pace. Ferguson will probably ridicule a reproach for Benzema and consider it a ship that has sailed. The Higuain rumours, on the other hand, could have a little more credence. He’s quick and certainly knows how to get his name on the score sheet. It’s questionable whether he’ll get the space afforded to him in La Liga when he makes a Monday night trip to Blackburn in winter, however. Another question worth asking is, if the rumours possess any truth, would you ever consider swapping Patrice Evra for either of them?

Then there’s the perennial whisper about David Villa. There’s a real chance he’ll leave Valencia this summer, but unless Manchester City stump up the cash for the 28-year-old, it’s expected he’ll move internally to either Barcelona or Real Madrid,with the possibility of Benzema going the other way. That’s not to say Manchester United won’t be interested, but if Sir Alex doesn’t converge on him quickly, his price will skyrocket following the World Cup.

Ferguson, of course, won’t be held to ransom.

If the starting bids are over £35 million, don’t hold your breath. Typically, the Scot, in all likelihood, will pick a sensible, moderate choice and set about molding him into a world class player, rather than placing as many noughts on a cheque as possible to get a big name.

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