ISL 2017: Why Dimitar Berbatov snubbed a Premier League option to join Kerala Blasters
Kerala Blasters made a statement signing earlier this month when they roped in the Bulgarian legend, Dimitar Berbatov. The 36-year-old Berbatov, who has played at fabled clubs like Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Bayer Leverkusen in a glittering career, will head to India later this year to apply the finishing touches to what has been a goal-laden journey in the world of football.
The seven-time Bulgarian Player of the Year and two-time Premier League winner with Manchester United would become the third highest earning player in ISL history, and Kerala Blasters head coach Rene Meulensteen has spilled the beans on why Berbatov signed for the Men in Yellow.
According to sources close to the player, the 36-year-old was in talks with Premier League outfit Watford for a player-coach role before Meulensteen's call sealed the deal for Kerala Blasters.
Talking to Manchester United's fan channel Full Time Devils on their YouTube yesterday, Meulensteen talked up how massive the Berbatov signing was, in ISL terms. "Dimitar Berbatov is a fantastic coup in that he wanted to join us. He is from the top drawer. I'm glad he is playing for us, given the interest shown by other ISL clubs in signing him."
Furthermore, Meulensteen also opened up on why Berbatov chose Kerala Blasters, and it was primarily because the Bulgarian has one eye on his post-playing career. "He joined us because he loved to work with me again, working on his coaching side. He can have a bigger view at the club and help in the holistic scheme of things. We need to be realistic that we are here to help the Indian players."
Although one of the biggest signings for the 2017-18 ISL, Berbatov could be playing the role of a mentor at Kerala Blasters. Besides, Meulensteen also explained the thought process behind the signing of two other former Manchester United players, Wes Brown and Paul Rachubka.
"Wes [Brown] and Paul [Rachubka], they know each other from United. Good communication is important in the backline, to get a solidity from the back," said Meulensteen.
With seven of their eight foreign signings done, Kerala Blasters are well set for another title challenge next season, having lost the final in 2016. The two-time ISL runners-up will be looking up to the experience and pedigree of Meulensteen and Berbatov to lead them to their first ever title.
You can watch the full YouTube video below. Jump to around the 25-minute mark to catch Meulensteen's talk: