After being named the joint top scorer in the Premiership last season with 20 goals, you may have thought that Dimitar Berbatov should have cemented his place in the United side for next season.
But with the emergence of Javier Hernandez and the shock omission of Berbatov from the Champions League final, what does the future hold for the Bulgarian at Old Trafford?
After his best season in a United shirt, which included some excellent performances, including the hat-trick against Liverpool and the 5 goals in the 7-1 rout of Blackburn, it looked like the Bulgarian had found his stride in the team, after two years of inconsistency an since he joined United from Spurs in 2008.
Last season for Berbatov was a season of two halves. In the first part, the 30 year old could do no wrong, but in the second half and the “business” end of the season, he was nowhere to be seen, having been supplanted by Hernandez, who was busy flourishing and forming a deadly partnership with Wayne Rooney.
There is no doubting Berbatov’s quality; I think he is an excellent player, and one of the most technically gifted players at the club. His overhead kick against Liverpool summed him up for me, and proved that he can perform the spectacular, just like Eric Cantona back in the day.
The problem often raised with Berbatov is that he doesn’t fit in with United’s style of play. We all know that the Bulgarian prefers to play deep as a second striker, the same position as Rooney operates in.
The reason that Rooney and Chicarito work so well is that the Mexican is an out-and-out striker and a poacher, whereas Rooney and Berbatov seem to clash and can never play well at the same time, it’s always one or the other, as when Berbatov was performing well and scoring goals in the first half of the season, Rooney was struggling, and vice-versa at the end of the season.
The only reason the speculation around Berbatov’s future is surfacing is because of his surprise omission from the Champions League final. While it probably didn’t make any difference, as United would likely not have beaten Barcelona even if Berbatov had featured, seeing as he failed to score in the Champions League last season, it didn’t say much about Sir Alex’s faith in the striker to completely omit him from the squad.
Today, a number of clubs have been linked with a move for Berbatov, with PSG reported to be making a £10 million bid, and Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen and AC Milan are rumoured to be interested in the Bulgarian, according to the Manchester Evening News.
Berbatov’s agent has said that the striker has no intention to leave United, saying the striker wants to sign a new deal. Emil Dantchev said,
“After we speak to Manchester United, we will know more but now he is very happy to be a Manchester United player.”
There are arguments for and against Berbatov remaining at Old Trafford. Firstly, Berbatov is arguably now United’s most technically gifted player after the retirement of Paul Scholes and if he is happy to be third choice striker behind Rooney and Chicarito, there is no reason to sell as 20-goal a season strikers are hard to come by. It wouldn’t make sense unless United have a ready-made replacement in mind.
The problem with the Berbatov situation is that he only has a year left on his contract. United still haven’t exercised the option to extend his contract and no talks have taken place over a new deal. Berbatov is 30 now, and if United don’t intend to offer the Bulgarian a new contract, is it worth cashing in now and recouping some money instead of letting him walk away for nothing next summer?
Obviously United will not be able to recoup the £30.75 million they spent on Berbatov three years ago, as no team will want to pay that much for a player of his age but to lose him for the quoted £10m fee would make any possible sale even worse.
If we were to sell him something closer to £15 million would be preferable but even then what player of similar quality would they be able to sign for that amount?
The established strikers with Champions League experience, the likes of David Villa, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto’o would cost much more than £15 million, as would up-and-coming talents like Neymar and Romelu Lukaku. United will want someone to come in and contribute right away if they sell Berbatov, and with other areas of the team needing strengthening, it’s unlikely that they would want to spend a fortune on another striker that may not even start for the side.
Even though it looks like Berbatov will have to be content with backing up Rooney and Hernandez next season, I think he can play an important role for United next season. Berbatov’s ability to produce moments of magic and the spectacular make him a valuable asset, and I think United should do their utmost to try and keep the Bulgarian at Old Trafford beyond next season.
What do you think – should United offer Berbatov a new contract or sell him this summer?