Thursday, September 4, 2008

Gone Baby Gone

When I began to write this on Tuesday morning, just hours after Dimitar Berbatov was unshackled and unveiled as the newest slave on Colonel Ferguson's Old Trafford Plantation, the plan was to slice up the sulky Bulgarian and feed his limbs to the woodchipper. I was insane, combing the Yellow Pages for a Zoroastrian (preferably named "Vilma") to ritualistically shave my testicles.

But with time and the first few chapters of "The Joke" now having stewed around my head a bit, the gauntlet has been retrieved. The daggers, sheathed. I'm still going to have to buy a new Spurs shirt. Please, Dimi, $70 payable to The Likely Lad. The rage though, has passed. Berbatov was never staying at White Hart Lane. To have sold him at such an inflated rate-- and to bring in Young Campbell too-- is victory, however Pyhrric, for the club and its fans.

As first noted by PavlyuBent (nee BerbaKeane, nee BerbaBent), the credit in the outcome of this miserable, prolonged drama, goes largely to Those Batshit Arabs (TBA) who purchased Manchester City. Daniel Levy had no choice but to sell Berbatov by the transfer deadline and everyone knew it. By Monday morning, as Colonel Ferguson rose from his alcoholic stupor, there was no chance a club bidding against itself was going to pay Spurs' asking price. But in came TBA, always there to bail us silly Jews out of our silly Jewish messes, and their Citeh caper. Fourty-eight hours later Berbatov is, for no less than 30.75m, property of the second largest club in Manchester.

I'm a Spurs supporter. My heart is full and my life is one piece. There is joy (little "j") and pain and they can co-exist. But there are no tears. Not for this guy. Losing players is a part of this sport more so than any other. Football, as much as I love it, is still new to me. That, along with so many years of rooting for shitty-but-rich New York teams (Mets, Jets, Rangers), has made the process-- and the process is as bad if not worse than the fact-- of losing such a talented player that much more galling.

Berbatov signed from Leverkusen in the summer of 2006 with average expectations. But he was magic from the start. For six brilliant months it was flick-ons, dummies, step-overs and goals. Loads of goals, even if the highlight reel shows a lot of Middlesbrough and Slavia Prague.

The crack-up, the kind "you don't feel until it's too late to do anything about," came in the Spring of '07. Just one season at the Lane (and as noted, just six months before the chatter began) and it was clear that this was not a long term arrangement. In that regard, Monday's move was an anti-climax. This deal was done more than a year ago.

Football is fleeting, and especially so for the footballers. Berbatov is 27 years old. Health-permitting he has three or four more years to pad his fag fund. Staying at Tottenham, he would never have entered the Nou Camp as anything better than a paying customer. Ambition is not Dimitar Berbatov's sin.

It was his behavior, on-field and off, in concert with the agent Dantchev-- whom I imagine to look like Borat's producer-- that makes Berbatov such a disdainful character. Barry Bonds never played for the Mets, so I don't know how a Giants fan rationalized rooting for him. But it couldn't have come from a much different place than allowed me to pull on a Berbatov shirt every weekend. His sulky gait, the rolling of the eyes, the pleading arms-- it wore on for so long that now, a couple days after his departure, the only emotion is relief.

The team may hurt for goals this season, but come success or failure, there'll be nothing owed, no moral promissory note on my fandom. The Spurs players now at Tottenham are there because they believe in the manager, their system, and better-than-average Premier League wages. No illusions here about how fragile that peace may be, but for today at least, I can like my football team again.


Phil said...

Well said, TLL.

I was gutted when Keano (whose shirt I still pull on every weekend) told us he didn't want us anymore, but with Berbatov, I'm just glad it's over. Spurs got shut of a sulky, manky git and got 30 mil and a hungry youngster in return. Berbatov is brilliant when he cares, but those moments were becoming fewer and farther apart.

Here's to the rest of the season!


Andrew said...

Berbatov = Anelka

@ Phil:"Brilliant when he cares" could be used to describe more than 50% of the Prem, yeah?

Phil said...


LMAO. I very nearly called Berba "L'Autre Sulk." His behavior was reminiscent of Anelka's, for sure.

It does seem like a lot of the big names in the Prem have gone missing so far this year. I'm not ready to chalk it up to not caring, but you have to wonder....

Think Reds dream of a team of Robbie Keane's?

Andrew said...

@ Phil: I like "L'autre Sulk." Run with it.

As for the "does he care?" theme, one excellent example is Barry against 'Pool this past Sunday. He was non-existent. One could chalk it up to the whole Villa-'Pool-Barry transfer situation, yet he's the Captain (still, right? Keith?), he needs to be in the thick of things. Reo-Coker, playing out of position at rightback, had more of an influence on the proceedings than Mr. Barry. Shoddy performance.

It's still early, though. Once the race heats up so will the performances.

The Likely Lad said...

The Sultan of Sulk...

Keith said...


Completely disagree with your assessment.

One, Barry isn't the captain any more. That's Laursen.

Second, NRC was playing right wing until Milner came on, then he was playing right-back. With Pool's attentions directed to the left side of the pitch, NRC had the space allowed to him to make those runs.

Third, even with the estimable Mr. Gerrard out, Barry always had a chore ahead of him dealing with Xabi and Mascherano in the midfield. I thought he and Petrov came out quite well, and Pool never really broke play through the middle (just as Villa never really broke play through the middle). And he certainly looked involved in the proceedings of the game.

Andrew said...

Keith -

I just never saw him until after the first 25 minutes. He and Petrov did have a battle in the middle, but I hold Barry in high regard and expected more from him. Of course, the game was a chore to watch, so my perception of Barry may have been dulled somewhat. Nevertheless, I think he isn't playing with the same fire he did last season. Still early, I keep telling myself.

As for NRC, where does he play now? Center-mid, sure, but then Petrov sits. Would you rather have Petrov or NRC?

As for Laursen, it's great to see him come forward on corners. Always a threat.

Keith said...

Andrew, he was the starting point for most of the goals in the opener (his one-two with Ashley Young to set up Gabby's first goal was especially nice), and he has bossed the middle of the park in our European excursions. On the central mid dilemma, I really don't know. All three have been playing exceptionally, plus there's Sidwell, Gardner and Salifou. I really couldn't tell you, but all six will be necessary, as we've got seven matches in a 3-week span after the WC qualifiers (at Spurs, at Litex Lovech[UEFA], at WBA, home to QPR [Carling], home to Sunderland, home to Lovech[UEFA], and then to Stamford Bridge). It's a nice problem to have, actually.

Cleatus said...

"Fag fun", you say? Well, count me--oh, sorry. Never mind.

The Likely Lad said...

fag as in cigarette... that berbatov spends his nights prowling the city streets for urchin boys to bugger is none of my business