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Is Berbatov Right For Fulham?

Dimitar Berbatov is Fulham's Player of the Season, but is the influence of our magic number 9 as productive as it would seem?

Mike Hewitt

There is no doubt that Dimitar Berbatov is one of the most technically gifted players to ever adorn the Fulham shirt. His first touch is immaculate, his finesse sublime, and he has an aura - a strut in his step, like a football playing 007.

I can’t ever remember being as excited for a signing before. Learning that Dimitar Berbatov had boarded a plane back from Florence, after snubbing AFC Fioretina, to come and play for the Whites, was unbelievable.

In some sense he has lived up to his reputation. His volleyed goal against Stoke was the work of a footballing magician. His influence and goals away at Arsenal inspired a great team performance, and his display at home to QPR helped bring the bragging rights back to SW6.

This said, however, not everything has been plain sailing with our number 9. His petulant wailing of the arms when play doesn’t go his way is both irritating and patronising. It presents him as separate from the squad, as if in his eyes, the starting eleven is made up of ten men and one superstar.

In lifting his shirt to brandish the message, "keep calm and pass me the ball", he not only disrespected his team-mates, but also suggested to the footballing world that Fulham are a team indebted to the services of one-man. Services that could have been deployed elsewhere.

For me Dimitar Berbatov is a luxury player. He is a player who I am happy to have and one that I enjoy watching. While his profile raises the club’s, he needs to remember that he is still only one part of it, like the rest of the squad.

What made Fulham so successful in our Europa League campaign a few years ago was not an array of glitzy names, but a solid foundation of like-minded players, and a hard work ethic. I feel that as a club we’ve let this go.

Naming Berbatov Player of the Year, an award I feel belonged to Sascha Riether, has only encouraged him to view himself as superior to the rest of the squad.

As his position as a Fulham player will no doubt come under threat this summer, it is difficult to comment on how to address this situation. If he goes, then he will certainly need replacing. If he stays, then unity must be restored.

A single player cannot dictate a team, and as fans, we cannot put our sole trust in the sheer presence of Berbatov securing our status in the top-flight. If things carry on the way they are, we are in danger of seeing our recent woeful form continue next season.