Tottenham's rebuild to be without Berbatov?
I had started planning my season end series of articles on what I thought would be the areas each club would look at strengthening and who would be moving out. However, Tottenham have already started their work with one purchase and heavy rumours of a sale in the very near future. Tottenham manager Juande Ramos began his summer shopping early with the capture of young Croatian star Luka Modric and the £16 million splashed out on that deal is the first step in the summer overhaul of his current squad.
As reported by EPL Talk, Tottenham Hotspur launched their new kits for next season and quite noticeably absent was their best player, striker Dimitar Berbatov. This has only upped the speculation that he is going to be sold at the end of this season though I’m not sure it is even fair to call it speculation when both his current manager and the player and agent have all made statements that would indicate a move is in the works.
Berbatov has two years left on his current deal and talks to extend the deal have stalled. Tottenham do not want his contract to run into the last year, when the transfer fee would drop considerably. They would be faced with the prospect of losing him on a free transfer in 2010 when he would be just 29.
It would be foolish for Tottenham to sell Berbatov to another club in England. I saw him a few times before he arrived at Tottenham but once I got to see him on a regular basis, he made a huge impression on me. Berbatov has sniped 46 goals and created nearly as many since arriving at White Hart Lane. He has incredible footwork and vision, and is a complete player rather than just a goal-poacher. He often drops a bit deeper to help support the buildup play and can zip the ball around as well as any playmaking midfielder. However, he can also act as a lone target man and can also hold up the ball while waiting for teammates to support. Berbatov modelled himself first on Marco van Basten and later Alan Shearer. And while he has not quite reached the levels of those two, Berbatov has become one of the top strikers in Europe, at least in my opinion, though I am not alone on that front.
In speaking with The Times after a match between Wigan and Tottenham, Latics boss Steve Bruce was almost lost for words. Bruce saw plenty of world-class forwards in his days as a Manchester United defender but had the mercurial Bulgarian. “He’s sheer class,” Bruce said. “He makes it look so easy. He reminds me of a top, top player.” Bruce would not be drawn farther – “I’m not going there, I can already see the headlines,” he said – but the inference was clear. Berbatov reminded him of Old Trafford icon Eric Cantona who had a short fuse and played with his collar turned up.
He is the type of talent that could tip the balance of power among the “Big Four” in the Premier League. I think he’d best fit into either of the playing styles of Manchester United or Arsenal with United the most in need of a centre-forward. That said, it looks as if he will be moved abroad, which will be a loss for the Premier League.
The clubs being mentioned as suitors are AC Milan, Real Madrid and Barcelona. According to some reports that I’ve read, Tottenham would prefer to sell the player to Barcelona, with the overriding factor being a potential swap deal with Samuel Eto’o moving in the other direction. This would make a great deal of sense for both clubs and both players. Eto’o seems like he would be suited to the break-neck pace of the Premier League and while he has done very well in England, one can only imagine the beautiful goals Berbatov would score playing with the likes of Messi, Henry and Xavi. Eto’o who has made statements about leaving Barcelona has had a tumultuous relationship with the Barcelona hierarchy and coaching staff. Even in the past month he has made, and then retracted, statements about being unhappy with the lack of trophies in the past couple of seasons. Eto’o, also 27 years old, was quoted in late April as saying: “I’ve done it all in Spain, I’ve reached the heights here and so if I do leave I will go to another league.” He later clarified his statements to radio station Cadena SER and said the he intended to portray that he “would not feel comfortable playing in a team that signed me to score goals and to win, and I don’t manage it.” He said he “would not be able to look the fans in the face.”Barca’s rivals Real Madrid are unlikely to ignore the chance to go for Berbatov, though Tottenham may ask for Brazilian youngster Robinho plus cash from the current La Liga champions.
Berbatov is desperate to win trophies and also wants play in the Champions League while he is still in his prime. Tottenham are a full season away from the Champions League (at a minimum) and they will be entering a rebuilding phase this summer as Ramos looks to continue the changes he started in January. Both Barcelona and Madrid can assure Berbatov of that chance.
As for AC Milan, Berbatov has already spoken out about interest from the Italian outfit. In an interview in Bulgaria last month he said: “There is some interest on the part of the Italian club, that’s all I can say. I’ll be flattered to go to talks with them.” Much like Barcelona, Berbatov combining with Pirlo and Kaka could make for some ‘liquid football’.
Regardless of where Berbatov goes, the club look set to make a sizeable profit from the sale of the player as his stock has risen greatly after two excellent seasons at White Hart Lane. Spurs spent £10.9m to sign him from Bayer Leverkusen in 2006 and that has been one of the best buys of the last couple of seasons. Spurs should receive between £20 – 30m in value for the player depending on the package offered them. One would be very skeptical that they would get £20m + Eto’o or anything similar to that.
The sale would help to increase the transfer budget of Ramos. As other possible replacements for Berbatov, Tottenham have been linked with David Villa of Valencia. Ramos has also been linked with a raid on former club Sevilla for their 20-year-old left winger Diego Capel. Capel’s buy-out price was £9.5m but once he’d played 40 first-team games, a target he reached against Murcia last month, the price rose by £2m. According to what I’ve read, Spurs can apparently pay the fee directly to the Spanish league office and then begin direct negotiations with Capel and his agent without involving Sevilla.
Spurs are also expected to make another bid for midfielder Lassana Diarra, having lost out on him to Portsmouth during the January transfer window. There have also been rumblings about Birmingham’s Olivier Kapo making a move to London should the Blues be relegated.
One player who Ramos will definitely lose is 34 year-old Czech goalkeeper Radek Cerny, who recently announced that he will join Queens Park Rangers next season.