Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dimitar Berbatov

Dimitar Ivanov Berbatov (born 30 January 1981) is a Bulgarian footballer who plays as a striker for Manchester United of England and is the all-time leading goalscorer for the Bulgarian national team. He has won the Bulgarian Footballer of the Year a record seven times, surpassing the number of wins by Hristo Stoichkov. Born in Blagoevgrad, Berbatov began his football career with his local club, Pirin Blagoevgrad, but joined CSKA Sofia as a 17-year-old in 1998. In January 2001, he was signed by Bayer Leverkusen, and 18 months later, he played in his first UEFA Champions League final, coming on as a substitute for Thomas Brdarić in the 2002 final against Real Madrid. After five-and-a-half years with Leverkusen, he was signed by Tottenham Hotspur, before joining Manchester United two years later. He played in his second Champions League final in 2009, competing against Barcelona. Berbatov is one of four players in Premier League history to have scored five goals in a single Premier League match. Berbatov's father, Ivan, was a professional footballer with Pirin Blagoevgrad, and CSKA Sofia, and his mother, Margarita, was a professional handball player. As a youngster, Berbatov supported Milan and modelled himself on Marco van Basten, until Euro 1996 in England, when Berbatov, at the of fifteen, discovered a new role model in Alan Shearer, of Newcastle United, even sleeping in a Newcastle shirt. His mother later spoke of Berbatov's dream of playing for Newcastle one day.

Berbatov's career began at Pirin Blagoevgrad, where he played until he was spotted by legendary CSKA Sofia scout and manager Dimitar Penev. After much speculation, Berbatov completed a move to Manchester United on 1 September 2008 for a fee of £30.75 million, with Fraizer Campbell joining Tottenham on a season-long loan and Tottenham's complaint to the Premier League withdrawn as part of the deal. This came despite Tottenham accepting a bid for Berbatov from Manchester City on the same day. Berbatov's contract to United is for four years, and he wears the number 9 shirt previously worn by Louis Saha. Berbatov later insisted he never even considered a move to Manchester City. Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger accused Tottenham of using the complaint to the Premier League as a trick for negotiations in order to get a better price, and expressed his doubt about the genuineness and validity of the complaint. Berbatov marked his Manchester United debut with an assist to a Carlos Tévez goal away to Liverpool but United went on to lose the game 2–1. He scored his first two goals for Manchester United in their 3–0 win away to Aalborg BK in the Champions League group stage on 30 September 2008. He scored the third goal in a 4–0 victory over West Bromwich Albion to mark his first Premier League goal as a Manchester United player. On 29 October 2008, Berbatov assisted Cristiano Ronaldo to open the scoring in Manchester United's home game against West Ham United after using deft footwork to get past defender James Collins. On 17 January 2009, he scored a last-minute goal to secure a 1–0 away win over Bolton Wanderers and help United to the top of the Premier League table for the first time in the season. Alex Ferguson defended Berbatov after the Bulgarian was the subject of much criticism for a penalty miss in the FA Cup 2008–09 semi-final against Everton, with Manchester United eventually losing to Everton in the penalty shoot-out. Soon after, Berbatov scored the fifth of United's goals as they came back from 2–0 down at half-time to win 5–2 against his former team, Tottenham Hotspur on 25 April 2009. Manchester United won the Premier League on 16 May 2009 with a 0–0 draw at home to Arsenal, to make him the first Bulgarian to win the competition. In the same season Berbatov made 10 assists in the Premier League and finished joint second (along with Fabregas, Gerrard and Lampard) behind league leader Robin van Persie with 11. Berbatov scored his first goal of the 2009–10 season against Wigan Athletic on 22 August 2009, netting the second of a 5–0 away win. On 3 October 2009, three days after an inspiring performance against Wolfsburg in the Champions League, he produced a scissor-kick finish for the first of United's two equalisers against Sunderland. He scored again on 31 October with a sublime control and finish against Blackburn Rovers but he got an injury in that game that kept him out of the team for more than a month. He scored again after nearly two months against Hull on the 27 December 2009. He scored the fourth goal in the very next game, a 5–0 home win against Wigan Athletic. Dimitar scored his ninth goal in the Premier League in the 3–1 defeat to Everton. That goal also meant that he had scored five goals in his last five league starts. His tenth league goal came against Fulham after a run of strong performances. He also provided the assist for Wayne Rooney's second. On 27 March 2010, Berbatov scored his first league brace for the club in a 4–0 away win over Bolton Wanderers. There were some suggestions that Berbatov would be offloaded after just two seasons with United due to his struggle to make an impact, however, this speculation was denied by manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Dimitar Berbatov Show Up

Berbatov scored United's first goal of pre-season on 16 July 2010, in a 3–1 friendly win over Celtic at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada. On 8 August, he scored United's third goal in the 92nd minute of their 3–1 win over Chelsea in the 2010 Community Shield. Just eight days later Berbatov scored his and United's first league goal of the season, opening the scoring in their 3–0 home victory over Newcastle United in their opening fixture. On 29 August, Berbatov completed the scoring in a 3–0 home win over West Ham United. On 11 September, Berbatov netted his fourth goal of the season in a 3–3 away draw against Everton. On 19 September, he scored his first hat-trick for United in a 3–2 home win against Liverpool. The second goal, which was a fantastic overhead kick, became a contender for Goal of the Season. This was the first hat-trick by a Manchester United player against Liverpool in 64 years, since Stan Pearson in a 5–0 victory in 1946. On 4 October, Berbatov's fine start to the season was rewarded as he was named PFA Fans' Player of the Month, taking the honour ahead of Chelsea trio Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda and Nicholas Anelka. Berbatov made his 100th appearance for United on 10 November in a 0–0 away league draw in the Manchester derby. On 25 November, Berbatov was one of six United players named on a 55-man shortlist for the FIFPro World XI 2010. On 27 November, Berbatov tied a Premier League record as he scored five goals in a 7–1 home victory over Blackburn, equalling the feat achieved by Andrew Cole, Alan Shearer and Jermain Defoe (and becoming the first and only non-English player to do so). On 20 December, Berbatov picked up the Bulgarian Footballer of the Year award for a record seventh time. Berbatov scored both United's goals in a home 2–0 victory over Sunderland on Boxing Day and then netted their only goal in a 1–1 away draw with Birmingham City on 28 December. Berbatov netted his first goals of 2011 as he scored his third hat-trick of the season in a 5-0 home win over Birmingham City on 22 January. This display made Berbatov the first United player since Ruud van Nistelrooy in the 2002-03 season to net three hat-tricks in the same season, and only the third player to achieve this in the history of the Premier League. In January 2011, Dimitar Berbatov was named by IFFHS as Europe's most popular footballer amongst current active players for 2010. Berbatov made his debut for Bulgaria on 17 November 1999 in a 0–1 loss friendly against Greece. He scored his first goal for the national side on 12 February 2000, in a 2–3 friendly against Chile. On 14 October 2009, he netted a hat-trick in the 6–2 home win in a 2010 World Cup qualification match against Georgia, enabling him to bring his goal tally for the national side to 46 goals, just one short of the then all-time top scorer for Bulgaria Hristo Bonev. On 18 November 2009, he scored two goals against Malta for a 4–1 away win in a friendly, and became the all-time top scorer of the Bulgarian national team. Despite his good performance, the only major international competition he played in was Euro 2004. Berbatov was also the captain of the team from 2006 to 2010, succeeding Stiliyan Petrov in 2006. On 13 May 2010, Berbatov announced his retirement from international football, citing his growing disillusionment with the side amid recent criticism of his performances, as well as some personal concerns. He said of his retirement: "It was a difficult decision, but sometimes we have to make difficult decisions."

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