ManUtd.com's Steve Bartram blogs on the sad but inevitable departure of Dimitar Berbatov...
For anybody who professes to love football, the departure of Dimitar Berbatov from Manchester United pours a cocktail of conflicting emotions: regret that the Bulgarian has had to find pastures new; relief that he is again liberated to showcase his exquisite talent.
The time is right for club and player to part ways, with Sir Alex Ferguson unable to offer Berbatov regular inclusion in a side decreasingly playing to the striker’s strengths, at a time in the Bulgarian’s career where he needs time on the field.
From his big-money, late-night arrival in 2008 to his departure to Fulham this afternoon, Berbatov’s four-year stint at Old Trafford split opinion, ensconcing fans firmly either side of an increasingly heated debate between art aficionados and those who pack the galleries.
Artist, smoker, seer of football as theatre, Berbatov appealed to the purists. But, for every supporter who revelled in his refinement, another bemoaned his perceivable languor. Some struggled to crack the conundrum; baffled by the contradiction of a player whose game was one of indulgence, joy and warmth, while his demeanour sometimes suggested anything but.
But whether or not you ‘get’ him, Berbatov’s gifts are irrefutable. Vision, instinct, awareness; invaluable intangibles cloaked in finesse. Most glaring of all, however, is his control. Fire a hip-high ball at him from a cannon and he will bridle it as if his boot is drenched in superglue.
When everything falls into place, he is unplayable. On off-days, inconsolable. Two games against Blackburn juxtapose the Berbatov enigma – in April, 2010 he led the line in Wayne Rooney’s absence at Ewood Park, missing chances in a costly, knuckle-gnawing goalless draw. Seven months on his grin enveloped Old Trafford after bagging five of the Reds’ seven goals against Rovers.