Born: 30 January 1981 (Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria)
Join Date: 01 July 2006
Appearances: 90. Goals: 46.
League Cup winner, 2008.
A unique talent, Dimitar Berbatov simply oozed class. His languid style, flawless technique and temperament was never more illustrated than when he tucked home a penalty in the League Cup Final against Chelsea in 2008. As many dared not even watch - including team-mate Didier Zokora, who was caught on camera facing the other way – ‘Berba’ stroked home from the spot as if he was playing in the park. Football just came easy to him.
At the age of 17, his mercurial talent was spotted by Bulgarian giants CSKA Sofia where he progressed at such a rate, that by 20, he was on the move to Germany.
At Bayer Leverkusen, he might have started in the reserves, but he again excelled and was quickly into the first-team. Disappointment followed with his side finishing as a runner up in the Champions League, the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal in his first season, but the forward had shown his ability and crucially, hadn’t disappointed in his goal tally.
He thrived over the next two seasons in North Rhine-Westphalia, his game time multiplied and he hit over half-a-century of goals for Leverkusen – next stop: north London.
Berba signed for us in 2006 and his impact was instant, firing home within seven minutes of his home debut before assisting Jermaine Jenas with our second against Sheffield United. The then Blades’ manager Neil Warnock described that opening blitz as ‘unplayable’.
That first goal would be one of the simplest he would ever score for the Club – he wasn’t a player for a tap in. For him to find the target, it would have to be something exquisite, but he made it look so easy every time.
You can look back at the long-distance volley away to Middlesbrough, the bamboozling flick on the halfway line on the road at Charlton that sent him clean through before he slotted the ball in or even, one of his personal favourites, an 88th minute edge-of-the-box free-kick which he whipped over the wall and in against West Ham to make it 3-3, before Paul Stalteri grabbed that last-gasp winner in March, 2007.
Let’s not forget a dipping volley against Club Brugge, four clinical strikes in a 6-4 win over Reading or a cheeky lob away to Fulham that rounded off a sumptuous 4-0 win in the FA Cup.
One of his most important goals, however, perhaps came in the most ‘Berba’ of fashions – his equalising penalty in the 2008 League Cup Final. Trailing 1-0 in the second half, Wayne Bridge handled and with an ice-cold coolness, Dimitar sauntered up to the ball and just rolled it into one corner as Peter Cech dived the other way. Simple!
Berba formed a lethal partnership with Robbie Keane in 2006/07 and 2007/08. Together, they scored 90 goals in two seasons. It was a match made in football heaven.
In the summer of 2008, Berba moved to pastures new, joining Manchester United and collecting two Premier League winners’ medals in his time at Old Trafford before spells at Fulham, Monaco, PAOK and Kerala Blasters.
He returned to N17 most recently in March, 2019, playing his part in the second of two test events at our new stadium as our Legends took on Inter Forever, with the Bulgarian naturally finding the target with a fine looping header late in the second half.