He is a self-proclaimed loner, one who guards his personal space very closely. Despite being one of the biggest names in the ISL this season, it was very tough to get close to Dimitar Berbatov, Kerala Blasters’ biggest star.
Requests for interviews were immediately turned down. But on Tuesday, when the Manchester United great finally chose to speak to the media at the Lulu Marriott, he came out as a very warm and interesting person.
The 36-year-old, who suffered a calf injury against FC Goa ten days ago, will be missing the away game against Chennaiyin FC on December 22 but is likely to be fit for the year-ending clash against Bengaluru FC.
READ: The Berbatov effect
Open to playing as defender
Berbatov, the former Bulgarian striker and all-time top scorer, is now playing a deeper role as a midfielder but felt that he was not finding it uncomfortable.
“It’s not difficult as long as you understand football the way I do. When you start to get older, you see it from a different angle. And I’m happy with that because, obviously, I’m 36,” said Berbatov, the 2010-11 EPL season’s joint top scorer.
“Anyway during my time at United and Spurs, in training sessions, sometimes I played as a midfielder or as a defender and this gave me a really good idea of how a defender thinks when I face him in a game, I know how they react. I always like to play with different roles while training.”
So much so, that the Bulgarian is even open to playing as a defender in future. “My father used to be a defender…he was a striker, later a midfielder and then he became a defender. I’m thinking along those lines as well,” said Berbatov.
'A simple game for smart peolple'
More than anything, Berbatov said he came to India to help young players. “To be honest, I always like to see young people play good and score goals so that they can be in the spotlight, give interviews. My coming here is to help them see football the way I see it.”
He felt that the young players can pick up some very valuable lessons from the ISL’s big stars. “It need not even be what I do during training, it can be what I do outside, the way I carry myself, how I eat, the way I prepare, small things like these could go a long way."
The Bulgarian had a word of advice for youngsters. “Don’t try to complicate things. When they try to copy (Lionel) Messi or (Cristiano) Ronaldo or the way they celebrate after a goal, I tell them, ‘don’t do this, just focus on your game, work hard, then everything will be fine’. If you see, football is a simple game for smart people, it’s not sophisticated to play football…just pass the ball and move around.”
A coach in the future
On his future, he said he was keen to become a coach.
“I’d be lying if I say that I’m not thinking about it. Now, I have nothing left to prove. But if I become a coach, then I will have a lot more to prove. It’s in my mind obviously, this is a challenge which is on my list and I’m working towards it.”
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