The deadline day signing has reinvigorated his stuttering career and been a huge influence in Fulham’s wins against West Brom and Wigan.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but when Dimitar Berbatov calmly and brilliantly stroked the ball into the net for his first goal against West Brom, English football fans seemed to collectively remember just what an excellent player he is.
Despite often being out of favour at Old Trafford, the Bulgarian still managed to score 48 goals in 108 league games, including sharing the league’s Golden Boot in 2010-11. Even last season, when he played only twelve league games, Berbatov managed seven goals.
Berbatov could well be even more successful at Fulham, where the team will be set up to best utilise his considerable talents, rather than at Manchester United, where he was deemed to be a negative influence on the teams rapid style.
Berbatov completed his brace against West Brom with a penalty, before turning provider in setting up the opener as Fulham collected their first away points of the season in the 2-1 win at Wigan.
It is away from home where Berbatov may have the most noticeable effect on Fulham’s fortunes. Last year the Cottagers frequently struggled on their away days, losing ten times and managing a mere four wins.
One of their major problems on the road was a lack of goals, scoring only 12 goals away, a quarter of which came in the 3-0 at Bolton, compared to their 36 at home.
Berbatov’s ability to hold up the ball and bring others into the play will be vital to Martin Jol’s attempts to improve that record. He also brings an air of the impossible to proceedings, he can conjure up a goal or an assist from nowhere, even in games where Fulham may be well on the back foot.
Now in his seventh season in the Premiership, defenders know all about Berbatov’s ability, and more importantly, know how they may well be unable to do anything about it on occasion. His presence in the Fulham line up will give opposition manager’s a unique challenge, and should create more space for his team mates to thrive in.
Berbatov is still only 31, the two year deal that Fulham have signed him on looks like excellent business. His languorous style is likely to be unaffected by age for some time yet and you could see him extending his time at Craven Cottage beyond those two years.
Surplus to requirements at Manchester United after the arrival of Robin van Persie, this truly looks like a move that benefits all parties, not least the neutral football fan, as there are few better players to watch around.
image: © nasmac