How United can sell Berbatov and make it a good piece of business

April 20, 2011 - 0:0

By Mark Ogden

As Dimitar Berbatov spurned the second of two glorious chances in the space of a minute during Manchester United’s FA Cup semi-final defeat against Manchester City at the weekend, the last thing on anybody’s mind would have been the inflation of his transfer value this season.
Having seen another big game go by without the goal or impact one would expect of a £30.75m club record signing, few would expect Berbatov’s resale value to bring a smile to the faces of the Glazer family or Sir Alex Ferguson.
Yet the paradox of Berbatov’s fall from grace at Old Trafford in recent weeks is the unexpected prospect of United cashing in on the Bulgarian this summer and actually regarding it as a good piece of business.
As he approaches the final year of his contract this summer, Berbatov’s ‘book value’ at United will be no more than £7.5m.
Due to amortisation of contracts and depreciation of assets (i.e players), most clubs divide the transfer fee of a player over the duration of their contract and reduce his value accordingly with each passing season.
Last summer, Berbatov was valued at £15m by United. This summer, the figure will be halved due to the final quarter outstanding on his contract.
But that figure is only an accountant’s number and, despite his relegation to third choice forward behind Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez, Berbatov remains both United’s and the Premier League’s leading goalscorer this season.
At 30, Berbatov will not command another £30m-plus transfer fee, but United know that adding Premier League top scorer to his CV will ensure that they can look to bank perhaps £15m for the former Tottenham forward should he be sold this summer.
Most clubs shy away from heavy investments in players beyond their 30th birthday. In fact, United have not paid money for an outfield player older than 27 since they signed Henning Berg and Teddy Sheringham, 31 at the time, in the summer of 1997.
But Berbatov is a player who will still command interest from clubs across Europe, regardless of his age.
Similarly to Sheringham, who played on towards his forties, Berbatov is a languid player who has not relied on pace over the ground to score goals. So as a result, he won’t lose the pace he has never had.
He is also an intelligent player, one whose experience would only make him more effective as he approached his mid-30s.
Berbatov’s problem, though, is that he increasingly resembles a square peg in a round hole at United.
His natural game slows United down and enables defenders to squeeze up and constrict space due to their knowledge that Berbatov will never turn on the last defender and cause the problems posed by the pace of Hernandez.
Rooney is a better player with Hernandez than with Berbatov and Michael Carrick is another who enjoys having a quick forward to target with his long range passes.
Ferguson has clearly decided that Berbatov is no longer a first-choice. His reduced involvement in recent weeks proves that, but then Berbatov has only scored twice since mid-January — against Bolton and Fulham — so he has hardly built a case for dislodging Hernandez and Rooney.
Aside from his hat-trick against a struggling Liverpool team last September, Berbatov has not scored against a team of note since netting in the 3-0 win against Chelsea in Jan 2009. His goals have generally come against the likes of Blackburn, Wigan, Hull and Birmingham.
Maybe that is why United have yet to offer him a new contract to replace the final year of his current deal. The chances of that happening now appear less likely.
But Berbatov is on course to end the season as the Premier League’s top scorer and that will only help his transfer value.
And if United bank more than £7.5m for him, then they could even argue that they had made a profit — or the accountants could.
(Source: Telegraph)