Kochi: Former Manchester United star Dimitar Berbatov, one of the best Bulgarian footballers of all time, might be signed by Kerala Blasters for the fourth edition of the Indian Super League (ISL).
It is learnt that Blasters management is close to signing a deal with the veteran striker who has also played for several top-flight teams including Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham Hotspur, and Monaco.
The official announcement is expected to be made in a day or two.
The 36-year-old has been a free agent after his contract was terminated by mutual consent by Greek club Panthessalonikios (PAOK).
The Kochi-based franchise approached Berbatov through new head coach Rene Meulensteen. They have known each other since their Manchester United days as Meulensteen’s was the ‘skill development’ coach under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Berbatov could be the fourth foreign player to be signed by Blasters this season. The club has signed Ghanaian attacking midfielder Courage Pekuson and Serbian defender Nemanja Lakic-Pesic after announcing the return of Canadian striker Iain Hume.
Lakic-Pesic has been plying his trade in the Austrian top division league for Kapfenberger SV, while Pekuson joined the ISL from Slovenian club FC Koper.
Bervatov was Manchester United's 50th player to score 50 goals for the club in all competitions. As a child, Alan Shearer was Berbatov’s role model, and New Castle United his favorite team. He began his youth career with his home-town club Pirin, before joining German side Bayer Leverkusen in 2001. Berbatov scored 16 goals in the club's Champions League campaign as Leverkusen eventually reached the final.
He made his entry into the English Premier League through Tottenham Hotspur in 2006. After two successful seasons, Berbatov moved to Manchester United in 2008, and the rest is history. At the Old Trafford, he made important contributions as the Red Devils won two EPL titles in four seasons.
He was also the league’s top-scorer in the 2010-11 season.
The Bulgarian scored five goals when United thrashed Blackburn Rovers 7–1, and became the first non-Englishman to net five goals in a Premier League match.
Berbatov made his debut for Bulgaria in 1999 at the age of 18, and went on to captain the national team from 2006 to 2010. However, the only major tournament he played at for his country was Euro 2004. He is also Bulgaria’s all-time top scorer with 48 goals in 78 appearances.
“I have seen players who gets intimidated by the ball. I’m not one of them. I know what to do before the ball reaches me,” these words are manifestation of Berbatov’s attitude towards the game.
This attitude, however, was often mistaken for passivity and laxity, but his composure and unhurried stance in front of goal were what prompted Ferguson to sign him. In fact, Berbatov was roped in to complement the combative and aggressive style of Wayne Rooney up front. While playing for United, Berbatov even attracted comparisons with legendary Eric Cantona because of his languid style and perceived arrogance.
Known for his footballing intelligence and technical ability, the Bulgarian was also capable of changing his style in accordance with any situation. In a league encounter against Tottenham in 2010, Berbatov came up with a stirring performance in Rooney’s absence. According to noted football journalist James Ducker, Berbatov played as if he had ‘decided to take it upon himself to impersonate the England striker’.