Dimitar Berbatov is a striker for Bulgaria and Manchester United in the English Premier League. Whilst his languid style has caused some to believe that he is a ‘lazy’ player, Berbatov is anything but when the ball enters the goal area – often scoring poachers goals that need ultimate speed, awareness and sharpness. As captain of Bulgaria he is hopeful of leading them to a major finals.
Dimitar Berbatov was born on 30th January 1981, in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. Born behind the Iron Curtain in communist Bulgaria, Berbatov had a difficult start to life, but that has seen him appreciate what he has now even more. He still sends money back to his first football club, and to prove he is still the same person, he still sleeps on the sofa when he goes home to visit his mother.
His father, Ivan, was also a professional footballer, which opened doors for Dimitar, enabling him to make a join up with his father’s former club CSKA Sofia at just 17.
Dimitar Berbatov was used sparingly by the coach at first, playing just 11 games in his first season, and scoring three goals. It was his form in the second season, as the team’s main striker (14 goals in 26 games), and his awesome strike-rate throughout the first half of the following season that prompted Bayer Leverkusen to make a mid-season bid for the young Bulgarian.
His career in Germany started slowly whilst he tried to adapt to closer man-marking and more organised defences. Berbatov struggled to impose himself on the first team, who finished as runners up in the Bundesliga in his second season at the club.
Berbatov was handed the first team spot following Michael Ballack’s departure for Bayern Munich, which freed up an attacking spot, and was an integral part of the side in 02/03, even if he didn’t actually score that many goals in the season. It was only in the summer of 2003, when he was 22 years old, that Berbatov became a prolific scorer for Leverkusen – notching up 57 goals in 90 league games over the next three seasons, and topping the goal-scorer charts.
When Tottenham Hotspur offered Berbatov an opportunity in the best league in the world, Dimitar took it with both hands – though Leverkusen also profited by almost £11m. At Spurs there was no messing around – he scored just 2 minutes into his debut at White Hart Lane, and continued to bang them in all season – winning a place in the Team of the Year after some sublime strikes.
Another season of goals followed, as he helped Tottenham to the League Cup – their first trophy in years, and formed a fantastic partnership with Robbie Keane. During the summer of 2008, Keane was sold to Liverpool (for £20m) and Berbatov was consistently linked to Manchester United.
Spurs insisted that Berbatov was not for sale, but eventually backed down, allowing Dimitar to sign for United with just twenty minutes of the transfer window remaining. Having arrived for a club-record fee of £31m, big things were expected of Berbatov in Manchester. He struggled to net many goals at first, whilst his team-mates got used to playing the ball into his feet rather than over the top of the defenders as they had done for the pacier Louis Saha. At the turn of the year, the Manchester United machine started purring, and Berbatov scored some memorable goals as the Reds contested four trophies.
Dimitar Berbatov was given his first international call-up by Bulgaria in November 1999, aged just 18, and is now the team captain after almost 10 years of top-level international football. Bulgaria continue to struggle to produce quality footballers, so have failed to make the major tournaments – though Berbatov is hopeful of firing them into a major Final in the near future.