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Idols: How Dimitar Berbatov changed my life

It’s not often I find myself swooning over another man quite like I do over the genius that is Dimitar Berbatov. When icons are spoken about the usual names tend to pop up; Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, and yeah sure they are all very iconic players, they all impacted heavily upon the club and the people who watch, but it’s all cliché. Berbatov was underappreciated and undervalued and had he come before he was at Spurs or in better circumstances then I know he could have been a great.

His first touch is the best thing I have ever seen on a football pitch. Absolutely no exaggeration there, the video of him pulling a ball down from 60ft in the air whilst playing for Fulham is one of my most watched of all time. He is responsible for one of my favourite memories at a live game when he turned on the byline against West Ham and laid it back for Cristiano Ronaldo to tap home. I’m still unsure how he did it, but it was made to look effortless. He executed it with the casual manner that has become synonymous with Berbatov and was so often misconstrued as laziness.

He found it hard in the beginning, absolutely. Tags of “the new Eric Cantona” followed him in his move from Spurs at a price Sir Alex Ferguson admitted was more than he wanted to originally spend on the player. It’s some pressure to face all these factors, but he responded well. Berbatov was accused of being rather goal shy at United, but his record of 56 goals in 149 games is better than one in three, and that’s forgotten by many people. The bulk were scored in his third season, and that season is where his highlights are found.

The West Ham game will always be in my top favourites of his just for that turn, but in truth, nothing will ever beat his hat-trick against Liverpool. Berbatov was unplayable that day and his performance was summed up with his sumptuous overhead kick that left everyone in the ground flabbergasted. The way in which he controlled the ball on his knee before throwing himself at it is about as good as you can wish to see and arguably one of the greatest goals scored at Old Trafford. Wayne Rooney’s effort against Manchester City was all instinct, a cause of circumstance that the ball would happen to be in the right place. Berbatov created the opportunity himself and calculated every movement of both he and the ball, it was measured and purposeful and another thing that is overlooked about him.

He may not be the popular choice as an idol, and there is no denying that he should have achieved more at United than he perhaps did, but for me Berbatov is a player I aspire (and fail oh so miserably) to play and be like when I wobble out to play on a Sunday morning. He arrived too late to the party for me and had he come sooner and played more with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Paul Scholes then his return would have been higher than it turned out to be. I don’t follow the careers of many players after United, but Berbatov is one that I have and forever will. It’s fair to call it a man crush, and it’s fair to call it hero worship.

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