Berbatov: Fee has been a distraction
Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov has revealed that during his time with the team he has felt somewhat weighed down by his club record transfer fee £30.75m which prised him away from Tottenhem Hotspur.
After two mixed seasons at Old Trafford, which saw Berbatov show glimpses of the genius Sir Alex Ferguson referred to in his programme notes ahead of last weekend's encounter with Liverpool, too often the major assessment of the 29-year-old has been one of unfulfilled talent.
Fans accused Berbatov of being too lazy and not contributing to the dynamism of a team that has been built around pace and energy. It certainly would not have come as any real surprise had Berbatov been unloaded in the summer, nor a lack of regret from the vast majority of United fans.
However, after a long wait, Berbatov is finally showing why Ferguson wanted him so badly. Seven goals already this season have sent him soaring to the top of the Premier League scoring charts, while his match-winning hat-trick against Liverpool last weekend - the first by a United player in the fixture since 1946 - earned him a special place in Red Devils folklore and included a magnificent overhead kick that is already being tipped for the goal of the season prize.
For Berbatov, it could go down as the day he was finally freed from his shackles. A quiet, thoughtful person, Berbatov's life revolves around his family. But, in an exclusive interview with MUTV, the former Tottenham man went some way to lifting the veil of secrecy that surrounds him.
"I suppose I am a strange guy but I am shy and maybe some people don't realise that," he said. "I have a difficulty letting someone else into my inner circle. I tried not to think about it (the fee) but sometimes you just can't help it.
"You start thinking, 'That's a lot of money, what is going to happen if I don't prove good enough or I don't score enough goals?'. It was always going through my mind and sometimes it can be bad for your concentration and your skills because it distracts you from the main goal. In the end I just have to relax and play. I am playing for the biggest club in the world and that's it - nobody can say anything else."
Ferguson hinted at such introspection a couple of weeks ago when he revealed he asked Berbatov to ignore what his critics were saying. Some find such commands easier to follow than others. Berbatov has always been viewed as being a little different, if not quite Cantona-esque, then definitely leaning towards the maverick.
For instance, when Cristiano Ronaldo famously declared he wanted to "get back to his hotel room and watch it again on DVD" he was referring to his 40-yard wonder strike against FC Porto. Berbatov took equal pleasure in the pivot past James Collins to set up Ronaldo's tap-in against West Ham in the same season.
"I watched it at home and rewound it in my head," he revealed. "I was the luckiest guy in the world doing that. It gave me pleasure."
That is Berbatov's take on the game that supplies him with so much wealth. As with Cantona, it is an art from, the pitch a place for expression.
"I am a striker. People expect me to score many goals," he said. "But sometimes the difficult pass, the pass no-one else can see, when you make it happen, it is more important than scoring the goal. It gives you a bigger feeling. I have always like to play with the ball.
"You have some strikers who wait for one chance in the whole of the game. I am not like this. Obviously there are games when you stand around doing nothing all game and in the end, the ball hits your knee and goes in the net.
"But that doesn't make me feel happy. I need to feel the ball at my feet. I need to organise things and make things happen. That is what makes me feel like a player. There is a difference between a football player and a goalscorer. For me it is the whole package."