ISL: The Berbatov effect

Kerala Blasters coach Rene Meulensteen insists star striker Dimitar Berbatov – who is yet to score in two outings – brings a lot to the table even when he is not scoring goals.

Dimitar Berbatov

Dimitar Berbatov has failed to find the back of the net in his first two games for Kerala Blasters.   -  Special Arrangement

He is a gifted striker, one who has lit up football with some magical moments, and the Kerala Blasters signed Dimitar Berbatov primarily for his goal-getting abilities.
So it was a bit of a surprise to see the Bulgarian star, who shared the English Premier League’s Golden Boot award with Argentinian Carlos Tevez six years ago, playing a midfield role in the Blasters’ last ISL game against newcomer Jamshedpur FC.

But Rene Meulensteen, the Blasters gaffer, threw some light on why he made his team’s biggest star play a very different and deeper role.

“When you are in the front, as a striker, you are very dependent on what’s happening behind you. Some people are just strikers, they like one specific position, I’ll give you an example, Ruud Van Nistelrooy with whom I’ve worked with, will only be able to play as a striker, even if he is 65. That’s what he is, that’s his trait,” said the Dutchman at the Nehru Stadium here on Saturday.

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“Berbatov has got different traits and I want my best players to get the ball as much as they can. If you compare Berbatov’s touches in the second game when compared to the first, it was a big, big difference.”

Meulensteen made it clear that Berbatov brings a lot to the table, even when he is not scoring goals. “He gives that calmness, that composure, if you look at his decision-making and again, it’s an ongoing process for also the Indian players to get used to, whatsoever player he is,” he explained.


“They need to trust him, they can give him the ball even when he is marked and basically, we always know that he comes up with something good.

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“Although he is measured in his approach, we need to make sure that he can turn those touches into a possessive way, leading to attacks. And that is, trying to link the back to midfield with the front guys,” opined Meulensteen.

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