'In that moment, everything was perfect' - Dimitar Berbatov on Fulham, 10 years ago and now...
18 February 2017|Tottenham Hotspur
Dimitar Berbatov’s football philosophy was perfectly illustrated in a moment of genius in an FA Cup tie at Fulham 10 years ago to this day - February 18, 2007.
Spurs fans of a certain age will know the goal we’re talking about and the tie itself, a 4-0 win in the fifth round where the almost telepathic relationship between ‘Berba’ and Robbie Keane was seen at its best.
If you haven't seen it, then how can we describe it? How about a flick with the outside of his right foot to lob the goalkeeper, like a sand wedge in golf - from 10 yards out!
The funny thing is, Berba was only on the pitch for 17 minutes having come off the bench for Mido with us 2-0 up in the second half.
Robbie had fired home two fantastic volleys from Mido’s flicks to put us in control.
His first and our third goal saw him play a one-two with the far post! His initial effort with his right foot hit the upright, bounced back to him and he slotted home with his left foot from a tighter angle.
His second and our fourth was a thing of football beauty. Hossam Ghaly fired in a pass from the right, Keano cushioned a volleyed pass between defenders and Berbatov, only 10 yards from goal, nonchalantly lifted the ball over Jan Lastuvka.
He went on to score 23 goals in all competitons in that first season, 2006-07 and repeated that number in 2007-08, making it 46 goals in 102 appearances for us before departing for Old Trafford in August, 2008.
Berba recently visited our world-class training facility at Hotspur Way for the first time and with a return to Fulham - don’t forget, another of his former clubs – in the FA Cup on the horizon, the striker was happy to take a trip down memory lane.
Below: Berba lifts the ball over Jan Lastuvka and home
Berba: “I was substitute that day, I didn’t start. Perhaps the game wasn’t going so great at that time, even though we ended winning 4-0. I remember Martin Jol telling me to get into the game. I don’t remember the score at that time (it was 2-0), but I do remember the two goals I scored.”
The first goal
Berba: “I had a defender against me and I tried to do some tricks, I was in the box and as I was trying something, I was also watching the goalkeeper to see what position he was in. I saw he wasn’t in a good position so I shot, it hit the post, the ball came back to me on my left foot and I scored, even though my left foot isn’t as good as my right foot, I still scored.”
‘You just want to do something special’
“My second goal was the goal is one of the goals I like the most. It is everything I love in football. The moment the ball is going to Robbie, I know, he knows where we are on the pitch, so I know he’s going to pass me the ball. He knows that and I know that. So you can see as the ball is coming to him, he’s already preparing to give me the ball with one touch, and I’m expecting it.
“So the ball is coming, I’m one-on-one with the goalkeeper and in that moment, I had already decided what to do because the goalkeeper was coming out from the goal. It was 3-0, and when it’s 3-0, the end of the game, you just want to do something special. It was the right moment for me to just flick the ball over him. Again, it something that looks like you put no effort in, casual, I just chipped the ball in but you need to do it right because if you don’t do it the right way with the right power and calculate the angle, you can look a bit foolish.
“In that moment, everything was perfect. The ball to Robbie, he gave to me, I saw the keeper out and decided ‘okay, just put it over the top of him’.”
Below: Berba celebrates
10 years on - Fulham v Spurs
Berba: “When I watch a team I used to play for, or two of my former teams play each other, then I’m not in favour of anyone, I just want to see good football with brains, combinations and an effort to try to play football the way football is meant to be played, on the grass. Tottenham play this football now and that’s why they are in the top four in England.
Fulham, when I was there, tried to play that football as well. They are now in the Championship but again, they have a good coach (Slavisa Jokanovic), I remember him because he used to work in Bulgaria, he’s teaching them to play the same way and they are in good form.
“On paper, it looks like Tottenham are favourites to win, you can say that. But when you go there and play at Craven Cottage it will be difficult if you underestimate this Fulham team, because anything can happen in the FA Cup. When I watch, I will be hoping for a good game. Who is going to win? I don’t know.”