'Myself and Spurs... we just clicked' - Dimitar Berbatov
22 November 2016|Tottenham Hotspur
Bulgarian hotshot Dimitar Berbatov knows us and Monaco inside-out – and with Premier League derbies against West Ham and Chelsea sandwiching tonight’s crucial UEFA Champions League tie at Stade Louis II, all sorts of memories are sure to come flooding back for the now-35-year-old this week.
Arriving at White Hart Lane from another of this season’s European opponents, Bayer Leverkusen, in 2006, Berba plundered 46 goals in 102 appearances for us prior to a move to Manchester United in 2008.
He would go on to join Monaco via Fulham in 2014, scoring 18 goals in 53 games during his year-and-a-half at the Ligue 1 outfit and, ahead of our matchday five meeting with Leonardo Jardim’s side this evening, we can hear from our former front man about some of his favourite moments in a Lilywhite shirt which, coincidentally, came against the two Premier League clubs opposing us either side of tonight’s match.
“Myself, English football and Tottenham Hotspur – I feel like we just clicked,” said Dimitar, who was in attendance at Wembley for our most recent Champions League outing against Leverkusen at Wembley on November 2. “Tottenham has a big history and a tradition of playing good, attacking football. As a player, I like to be an entertainer, so from that perspective I think that Spurs was a very good fit for me as a football club.
“Our 4-3 win at West Ham (March 4, 2007) says it all when you reflect back on my first season at Tottenham. That summed up the kind of team we were at the time – we had lots of crazy games like this when we scored plenty of goals but let in quite a few too!
“I scored a free-kick in that West Ham game (pictured, above) when I placed the ball into the top corner. I had seen Ronaldinho score one like that for Brazil a few years earlier, so I decided to try the same thing. It was great to see it come off. Paul Stalteri went on to get our winner in the last minute and we all went mad!”
Similar scenes played out at White Hart Lane on Saturday as we warmed up for tonight’s must-win European clash with a thrilling late turnaround to beat the Hammers 3-2 at White Hart Lane.
And, by coincidence, another of Berba’s stand-out moments from his time with us came against this coming weekend’s opponents in the 2008 League Cup Final.
“Before the game, everyone was saying that Chelsea were going to win and blah, blah, blah,” he recalled.” We had respect for Chelsea, knowing they had a strong side and good players. But we weren’t fazed by them and we knew we could give them a game. We showed in the semi-final, with our 5-1 win against Arsenal, just how good we could be on our day and we proved that again in the final.
“We didn’t get off to the best start with Didier Drogba scoring a free-kick but we never gave up. I was able to score a penalty to equalise (pictured, above) and Jonathan Woodgate got a header in extra-time which won us the cup. It was absolutely fantastic to win – I think our belief and the way we played together as a team throughout the season were the big factors that won us the cup.”
These days, Harry Kane and Vincent Janssen share duties up top for us but when Berba was here, he formed a useful front line partnership with Republic of Ireland legend Robbie Keane (pictured, below): “Myself and Robbie clicked both on and off the pitch,” Dimitar remembered.
“He was a great character and someone who was always encouraging his team-mates. His running was absolutely tireless – he kept going the whole 90 minutes. We were a perfect combination, scoring lots of goals. There was never any rivalry between us about who scored more goals – the most important thing was scoring for the team.”