The former Bulgaria international recalled a League Cup game against Leeds where he played in defence for Sir Alex Ferguson’s team
Dimitar Berbatov says he played like Franco Baresi, Paulo Maldini and Franz Beckenbauer all rolled into one when he once had to play at centre-back for Manchester United.
The Bulgarian forward used to train in defence at times to learn more about how defenders saw the game – and how to get the better of them.
Once, in a League Cup clash with Leeds, United had used all three substitutions when young defender Zeki Fryers went off injured, so Berbatov filled in at the back.
“First of all it was not five minutes, it was like half an hour maybe!” Berbatov joked on a live Q&A on Instagram. “Of course I remember it but not many people remember which game it was. I was like Baresi, Maldini and Beckenbauer in one!”
Better remembered for his goalscoring, Berbatov enjoyed one of the most fruitful partnerships of his career while playing for Tottenham. He and Robbie Keane formed a potent duo in north London, and Berbatov was asked how highly he rated the Irishman.
“As high as the moon,” he said. “Keano was unbelievable. When we were playing together, we were creating beautiful masterpieces all day long. He was perfect, in the goals we scored. It was a great time.”
Berbatov was also asked about the most underrated team-mates he played with during his time in the Premier League.
“At Spurs, Ledley King was, for me, a great defender and Jermain Defoe scored a lot of goals. “At United, Antonio Valencia was a beast and Michael Carrick was great. I would put myself in there as well.”
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While Berbatov won two Premier League titles at Manchester United, the first trophy he won in football outside his native Bulgaria came at Spurs.
Tottenham beat Chelsea 2-1 to win the League Cup in 2007-08, with Berbatov grabbing Spurs’ equaliser before Jonathan Woodgate scored the winner.
“Winning the cup in 2008, beating Chelsea at Wembley, I scored in that game,” he remembered. “It was my first trophy in England. It was a special moment but honestly every game for Spurs was special for me and I love them. I have so much respect and gratitude for the team and it’s forever.”