His move to France came as a bit of a shock on deadline day, but after six weeks in the French Riviera, former Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov is beginning to find his feet.
Coach Claudio Ranieri may not have wanted the 33-year-old, but now he’s beginning to make a difference, the Italians’ next challenge is to try and find a way to link Berbatov with Colombian superstar Radamel Falcao.
Creating a successful partnership between the two talismanic forwards could be the key as Monaco try and challenge Paris Saint-Germain next season.
Berbatov played a key-part in Monaco’s 3-2 win over Lyon on Sunday, his touches may have been minimal, but they were crucial. For the first he showed his presence as a target-man, laying the ball off for Valerie Germain to tap –in. The second had elements of luck, Germain crossed, Berbatov tried to control, his touch was heavy. James Rodriguez was there to convert, capitalising on the situation. Then Berbatov showed the other side of his game, peeling to the right he came off the shoulder of the last defender before scoring beautifully with the outside of the right boot.
It showed all the aspects of his game and demonstrated what he could offer beside a player in Falcao’s style. Very rarely does the Colombian create his own goals, he is the finisher. Having Berbatov beside him would benefit the former Porto striker, helping the Falcao find space and take up positions that would see him become even more dangerous in and around the penalty box.
One thing that Berbatov showed on Sunday is that he can still move quickly around the pitch. The stereotype that he is lazy is more to do with his style rather than his lack of mobility. His ability to drift wide and peel off the last defender will be critical in making space for Falcao. It’s much harder to mark two forwards making two different types of runs. Too often Emanuel Rivière makes a good, but similar run to Falcao. Although he is faster, he doesn’t help stretch the defence as much as Berbatov will. Even when he drops deep to collect the ball, similar to what Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been doing for PSG, it makes the defence and midfield make a decision.
Ranieri will be hoping to keep Falcao at the Stade Louis II for another season. If the Colombian plays another season in Ligue 1 and sparks up an exciting partnership with Berbatov, the signs show it could spell success for both Ranieri and Monaco.