ISL 2017: Kerala Blasters hold talks with Dimitar Berbatov but deal not yet done
Former Manchester United striker and Bulgarian legend Dimitar Berbatov's move to the Indian Super League could still be on as the striker looks for a big payday before hanging up his boots.
Last month, we had reported that Berbatov was attracting interest from ISL clubs but at that time, the player was in no rush to commit his future to any club.
A source close to the striker has now revealed that Kerala Blasters have contacted the player, although the status of the player's decision remains the same. Berbatov is believed to be stalling over the terms of the deal, which should be a single-year one, but Kerala Blasters remain confident of sealing an agreement. The Kochi-based outfit are on the lookout for two more foreign strikers.
Earlier this week, local Kerala publication Manorama carried a story reporting Berbatov's signing is imminent and Kerala Blasters could announce the former Premier League winner in a day or two. As things stand, that is still a possibility.
Should his ISL move materialise, the 36-year-old could meet an old acquaintance in the ISL in the form of his former Tottenham Hotspur strike partner Robbie Keane, who is set to play in ATK colours next season.
It is believed that new Kerala Blasters head coach Rene Meulensteen has been the major influence in the Yellows going for the Bulgarian record goalscorer, the former Manchester United assistant manager having worked with the striker as a skills coach at Manchester United and as a manager at Fulham.
Berbatov's arrival in India could be a massive statement of intent from Kerala Blasters. The two-time finalists have already roped in two of the best forwards in the ISL - CK Vineeth and Iain Hume - and getting a third in Berbatov will see the Blasters installed as the early favourites to lift the 2017-18 ISL title.
However, all of that depends on how the negotiations pan out. The Berbatov deal could set Kerala Blasters back by a significant amount of money, but the Kochi-based club are ready to take the financial risk in exchange for an enhanced global profile. The club became the first ISL club with 1 million Twitter followers this week and roping in a big name like Berbatov will be another significant booster of the Kerala Blasters brand and will pull in more Indian fans of European football into the Blasters' fold.
Berbatov is one of the most famous names in world football owing to his hugely fruitful time at Manchester United but at 36, he is not a guaranteed success. Should he misfire for the Blasters, at least they have the likes of Hume and Vineeth to fall back on, hence signing the Bulgarian could prove to be a masterstroke for Meulensteen and the Kerala Blasters hierarchy.