ISL 2017 | "It used to be easier": Dimitar Berbatov
The Unbelievable Signing
When Kerala Blasters announced their latest signing, that name shook the football crowd in India. Who would have ever imagined that the Bulgarian and Manchester United legend would grace the football environment in India?
"It is going to be crazy", some said. "This cannot be true", said others.
As incredible as it may have sounded back then, it did happen. After a brief stint in Greece with PAOK, Berbatov had been a free agent for almost a year. On 23rd August, 2017, Berbatov's agent confirmed that he had signed a contract with the Indian Super League (ISL) franchise Kerala Blasters for a market value of £900,000, which placed him among the most expensive players in ISL.
His arrival at Kochi airport itself witnessed a massive gathering, with Manchester United supporters traveling from afar just to catch a glimpse of the 36-year old.
A Slow Start for Kerala
Despite all the humdrum surrounding his arrival, Berbatov's debut with the Blasters was far more uneventful than anyone would have imagined.
During their opening home game against the defending champions, ATK, Berbatov played the role of a forward but was unable to create any goal-scoring opportunities throughout the ninety minutes. The following match against Jamshedpur was no different.
Forward to Midfield
Two goalless draws in their first two matches left the Blasters fans frustrated and the manager, René Meulensteen, questioning the team strategy.
With a younger, faster, and better-performing forward available in the form of C.K. Vineeth, Meulensteen decided to pull back their Bulgarian star into the midfield, and a slightly defensive role.
Despite several team changes, Kerala Blasters only managed one win in their subsequent four matches. As things stand, Kerala have 7 points from 6 matches, placing them at the 8th position on the table.
When news of Berbatov's signing first broke out, fans and critics anticipated a goal fest from the former Manchester United star. Sadly, this has not been the case. Berbatov is yet to find the back of the net.
Moreover, Berbatov picked up a muscle injury early during the Blasters' away game at Goa - ruling him out for two matches.
Has he lost the magic?
During a recent social media interaction, questions on Berbatov's form were raised. Many fans wanted to know if Berbatov had "lost his touch".
While speaking at a press conference in Kochi, Berbatov said, "Rene (the coach) and I thought I would be able to play more in the midfield obviously because I'm 36 years old. Running around the pitch is not as easy as it used to be."
What to Expect
The Kerala Blasters expect Berbatov to make a full recovery in time for their crucial match against Bengaluru FC. Given the position they find themselves in, both Dimitar Berbatov and Kerala Blasters will be looking to make the most out of this fixture.