The legacy and magic of Dimitar Berbatov

Dimitar Berbatov is one of the most prominent examples of Bulgarian football and is easy to see why when looking back at his career. The cultured striker made a lot of noise since the early 2000s when he signed for Bayer Leverkusen and only went from strength to strength, quickly becoming one of the most successful footballers to ever represent this country.

Dimitar Berbatov in Manchester United
When it comes to the average football fan, Berbatov is remembered for his classy playing style and the ability to combine goalscoring abilities with visual aesthetics. Despite having a lanky figure, his first touch and elegant finishing have become something of a cult classic among football enthusiasts, which is why it makes a lot of sense that he has become a bit of an icon in that regard.

So, here is the story of Dimitar Berbatov, his ups and downs, and how he became one of the best footballers that Bulgaria has ever produced.

in Bulgaria and Germany

Berbatov was born on 30 January 1981 in Bulgaria and was the son of two professional athletes, so he was always surrounded and influenced by sports. Since he grew up during the days of communism in Bulgaria, he couldn't afford a football and would play with anything he could find, slowly building his abilities.

It was during these early years that he started to play for the youth team of Pirin, the club of his hometown, and stood out by scoring 77 goals in 92 matches. This led to CSKA Sofia, one of the biggest clubs in Bulgaria, to sign him for their youth setup and made his professional debut in the 1998/99 season at the age of 18.

Dimitar quickly became one of the best players in the Bulgarian league, and during the 2000/01 season he scored 16 goals in 16 matches across all competitions. That prompted Bayer Leverkusen to sign him in January of 2001, although he would the first few months of his tenure there playing with the youth team as he got used to German football.

However, the 2001/02 would prove to be very important for Berbatov as he scored 16 goals in 41 matches across all competitions for Leverkusen while being mainly a rotation player. He would contribute to a very good, albeit disappointing season for Leverkusen as they finished runner-ups in the Bundesliga, the German cup DFB-Pokal, and the UEFA Champions League.

As players slowly began to leave the club, the Bulgarian became a lot more prominent and quickly became one to watch across Europe. He would score double digits across his last three seasons at Bayer Leverkusen, cementing himself as a very good talent and would eventually get his transfer to Tottenham Hotspurs in the summer of 2006, changing his life forever.

Berbatov in a blue Manchester United sweater

His time in England

There is no denying that the English Premier League has always been a great platform to get players on the map and that is what happened to Berbatov when he joined Tottenham Hotspurs in the summer of 2006. That is the period of his career where most people began to notice him and became one of the most popular strikers of that era.

While Dimitar had a very good output with Spurs, scoring 46 goals in the 102 matches across all competitions during the two seasons he was in, it doesn't tell the whole story. Part of what made him so popular and beloved during this era was because of his technique, wonderful goals, and how he was able to combine visual aesthetics with being effective. He would also be part of the Spurs side that won the 2007/08 League Cup.

Sir Alex Ferguson noticed his talents and signed him for Manchester United for the 2008/09 after a long transfer saga. United were the Champions League winners of the previous season and added Berbatov to an attack that already had the likes of Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Carlos Tevez.

Berbatov is widely loved by United fans and his time there was mostly positive, although he played more of a rotation role rather than being the star performer he was at Tottenham and Leverkusen. Furthermore, his absolute peak as a Red Devil was in the 2010/11 season where he was the Premier League's top scorer with 20 goals.

It was also during this season that some of Berbatov's finest moments as a Red Devil took place as he scored several hattricks, which is rarity even to this day in football.

His time with United was a success as he scored a decent amount of goals and also won multiple trophies, but he was let go in the summer of 2012. He would join Fulham that season and would play there for two seasons, giving their supporters some great moments, but is fair to say he was past his prime at the time.

His final years of his career

Berbatov played with AS Monaco from 2013 to 2015, having some good moments here and there, such as scoring against Arsenal in the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League final to take the club to the quarterfinals. He would sign for Greek side Paok for a season and even had a short stint during the 2017/18 season with Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League.

His performances with Bulgaria were, in general, positive. He scored a total of 48 goals in 78 matches from 1999 to 2010 when he chose to retire from international football. However, his biggest contribution to his country was through his performances with his teams as he became one of the most successful players they have ever produced and also one of the best when it comes to finishing, abilities, and technique.
Kelvin Tingling knows most things about football and also likes to write about it. Kelvin lives in Buenos Aires and his favorite team is Boca Juniors.