With just one game remaining in the English Premier League, the rumour mill is already fully operational with players from all corners of the globe, on their way to god knows where.
Column inches containing the name Dimitar Berbatov have unsurprisingly been in heavy supply, as the sulky Bulgarian looks to leave White Hart Lane after a two year spell.
Berbatov’s certain transfer is, to most observers, the worst kept secret in football. His displays at the beginning of the season betrayed more than a hint of indignation at his denial of a move to a Champions League club in the summer, despite the player’s assertions that he was happy in North London.
Emil Danchev, the player’s agent, has not endeared himself to many of the Spurs faithful with his continuous efforts to tantalise potential big money suitors with his client’s services, regardless of his lengthy and fully protected contract at Tottenham.
Despite another 22 goal haul this season and helping the club to a Carling Cup triumph and UEFA Cup football for the third consecutive season, the classy striker it seems, wants more.
Although his departure from Spurs is almost certain, his transfer fee is less so. A look at transfer fees of other undoubtedly talented forwards do not make things any clearer.
At 29 years old, Ukrainian Andriy Shevchenko, left AC Milan to join Chelsea for £30m in 2006 and last year Arsenal’s talismanic striker Thierry Henry, left the Gunners for £16m, also at 29. Wayne Rooney made his debut for Manchester United aged just 19 after his £29m move from Everton and 23 year old Spaniard Fernando Torres left his spiritual home of Atletico Madrid to join Liverpool for £24m.
At 27, Berbatov is reaching his peak, with two years left on his contract and Spurs not needing to sell; he could cost his new team up to £30m. His thirst for Champions League football and the inevitably large price tag on his forehead will have narrowed the pool of clubs in contention for his signature.
Chelsea’s bottomless Russian cash pit could easily finance a move and with Didier Drogba already signalling his intent to leave Stamford Bridge, a space may well open up for a new top class striker.
Manchester United too, who have spent almost as much as their title rivals Chelsea over the past few seasons could also stump up the cash. Fitting Berbatov in alongside Rooney, Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo would make every other manager in England sick with worry, however, as with Chelsea, the move is unlikely.
Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is not a fool and nor does he lack ambition. With Spurs themselves vying to gatecrash the "Big Four" party at the top of the EPL, selling a prized asset like Berbatov to another Premier League club would not be the kind of move Levy would make, whether Berbatov liked it or not. His departure is likely to be for foreign shores, and only four clubs fit the bill.
In Spain, the big hitters Barcelona and newly crowned champions Real Madrid are no strangers to big buys. Berbatov’s style would more than adapt to the Spanish game and if former EPL players Diego Forlan, Paolo Wanchope and Frederic Kanoute can score for fun, the Bulgarian should have no problems.
There are however some issues with both of these moves. While Madrid have just clinched the La Liga title, the plight of Valencia at the wrong end of the table has thrown doubts on striker David Villa’s future at the Mestalla. Villa, who wants to remain in Spain, is touting himself directly at the champions but the alleged buy out clause in his contract of almost £80m would certainly rule the Spanish giants out of any move for the Spurs forward.
In Cataluña meanwhile, Barca are in something close to turmoil. Lying third in the table behind Villareal and a semi final exit from the Champions League at the hands of Manchester United has left their season in tatters.
With key players such as Ronaldinho losing form, Samuel Eto’o wanting out and Thierry Henry failing to recapture his Arsenal days in a Blaugranes shirt has put pressure on manager Frank Rijkaard, who also seems to be looking for the escape hatch from the Camp Nou.
With a strong possibility of Chelsea’s Drogba leaving the Premier League to play for Barcelona, it again seems unlikely that Berbatov would leave Spurs for a troubled club to play second fiddle to the Ivorian, no matter how prestigious they are.
It is in Italy that Berbatov is more than likely to be plying his trade next season and discounting Juventus who are still recovering, all be it in an exceptional way, from the calciopoli scandal of 2006, it is Milan and the San Siro that will welcome the Bulgarian.
For which team is still in question as Internazionale have the financial clout and the status to accommodate Berbatov comfortably. The only question is whether it would mean Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic leaving the Nerazzurri for him to fit in at the club.
It is however AC Milan that offers the ideal situation for both Spurs and the player himself. Danchev has already stated earlier in the season that Milan were interested in his client and with a history as glorious as the Rossoneri’s it would be hard for Berbatov to refuse a deal, were it to come.
Spurs would be happy to receive a hefty fee and perhaps see midfield workhorse Gennaro Gattuso come the other way as part of the deal. Milan’s aging squad will be in need of revitalisation as many players surpass the 30 years old mark and with Chelsea’s millions reportedly amassing for a push to entice Brazilian Kaka away from the Milanese, the move would certainly suit Milan at any cost.
Berbatov’s laid back style would very much suit Serie A and his deftness of touch is sure to endear himself to the fans.
While Spurs supporters and players will be sad to see their star man leaving, his on field tantrums and inconsistent displays this season will have made his departure slightly easy to take.
The transfer fee the North London club will receive is also likely to soften the blow too and with Croatian playmaker Luka Modric already signed up for the Lilywhites, Spurs may find life after Dimi is not as bad as it once seemed.
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