Dimitar Berbatov Reportedly Wanted as Lionel Messi Cover by Barcelona

Christopher AtkinsContributor INovember 19, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02:  Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United tackles Dimitar Berbatov of Fulham during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Manchester United at Craven Cottage on November 2, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov is being considered by La Liga champions Barcelona as possible cover for injured forward Lionel Messi, according to the Daily Express' Ben Jefferson.

It would be a move that would come as somewhat of a shock, given the Bulgarian's mediocre form for the Cottagers this season. However, he is reportedly seen as a useful cut-price option.

Jefferson writes:

Fulham's Dimitar Berbatov has emerged as a surprise target for Spanish giants Barcelona with manager Gerardo Martino intrigued by the technique and experience of the former Manchester United and Tottenham striker.

Reports in Spain suggest that Barca are contemplating adding short-term cover for the injured Lionel Messi and Berbatov's name is on the list.

Whilst Martino is thought to have faith in Neymar and Alexis Sanchez, the Argentinian boss is open to the idea of adding a veteran back-up "just in case" if costs can be kept down.

While Barcelona have undoubtedly changed style under Martino, any move for Berbatov would bring echoes of the club's previous capture of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The two strikers are not dissimilar in their languid style of forward play and Ibrahimovic undoubtedly found life tough at the Camp Nou—lasting one season despite claiming a La Liga title. That Berbatov would have similar problems adapting to the club's style, then, is far from inconceivable.

It is understandable that Messi's absence would prompt the club to look elsewhere, with the Argentine currently ruled out for eight weeks per Goal.com, having struggled for fitness all season.

However, Messi will be close to a return by the time the window re-opens in January and that would seemingly rule out any major expense on a potential short-term replacement.

Fulham, too, would not be willing to sell cheaply. The club are fighting in the bottom half of the table and see Berbatov as a leading figure for their survival hopes. Any hope of a cheap sale is perhaps wishful thinking on the Catalans' part.

Having said that, it would take a manager of little sentiment to deny Berbatov a switch to Barcelona at this late stage in career. The stylish frontman has always craved the platform on which to play silky football and the Camp Nou would arguably eclipse his previous stint at Old Trafford.

Barcelona do not have the biggest squad, but they do have several talented young forwards in their ranks as well as the likes of Pedro and Alexis rotating first-team berths.

As a result, it would seem unlikely they would choose to spend money on a forward already in his 30s midway through the season, unless Messi suffers a further setback.