Victims of Rotation
March 29, 2012 in Premier League
According to recent reports, Manchester United’s Dimitar Berbatov will be departing the club this summer, having seen his status drop from big-money superstar to fourth-choice striker. Being the latest victim of the squad rotation policy, Berbatov serves as a prime example of how fleeting success found under this policy can be.
Berbatov was bought immediately after United’s Champions League triumph, which you could argue was a triumph in rotation. Boasting an attack force of Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Louis Saha, a United team has not come close to looking so fearsome since, and was a team very much at the peak of understanding and acceptance. Carlos Tevez, for example, was happy to have his playing time rotated during this season, and only began to take umbrage to his situation the next season with the introduction of Berbatov. Louis Saha, in a matter much more peaceful than Tevez, accepted that his time to shine at United was over in subsequent seasons, himself having taken a starting berth from a jaded Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2006.
The point I’m trying to make is, while the rotation policy is one that is seen as key to a top side – it is perceived that you can’t really challenge without strength in depth – it is fundamentally unsustainable. Players will eventually tire of waiting on the bench and will want to move on. This fuels the idea that when a club splashes out on a multi-million pound signing, it could be as only a short-term investment. Moving briefly to the blue half of Manchester, consider one Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian was signed by City for £27m, but is hot favourite to leave the Etihad this summer, as he has clearly failed to live up to his billing from his time at Wolfsburg. You could – and I will – argue that Dzeko’s relative failure at City has come from a long settling-in period, followed by an inconsistent run in the side.
Having signed Dzeko in January, he was always going to require some time to settle into the squad. Odds were, having signed a somewhat proven talent in Dzeko, that he would eventually come good, and work well with the formidable wide players City possess. Rather than accept this, though, City splashed out another £38m on Sergio Aguero, minimising Dzeko’s role in the team, and consequently, his potential. Dzeko actually got a decent run in the squad earlier this season, hitting a streak of goals in return, with a particularly notable four goals against Tottenham in September. Who knows what he could have done if given a more prominent role after settling in? And even after all of that, rather than learn their lesson and get a more reasonable back-up striker, reports claim that City are lining up a £42m move for Atletico Madrid’s Falcao, a move which I’m willing to bet will result in Sergio Aguero leaving in the next season or so, particularly with Mario Balotelli looking more complete every game.
Dimitar Berbatov essentially suffered from a similar problem but one of a different nature. A player of a different mould than United, he never looked a proper fit for United; his laid-back style of play (“languid” is the adjective the press like) always contrasted with the more energetic approaches from Rooney, Hernandez and Welbeck, or even Tevez before them. It, therefore, is unsurprising that Sir Alex does not trust Berbatov in the bigger games, as was evident when he did not even make the bench for last season’s Champions League final, with the team utilising a fluid, quick counter-attacking approach to their play. Still holding the tag of United’s most expensive signing, he will walk side-by-side with Dzeko as an Eastern European superstar who came with such hope, but will probably leave having fallen to the rotation policy.
Ultimately, one has to consider this. When a talented squad – squad, not team – is put together, can it ever hold together for the long run? If you argue “no”, then I ask why teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid seem to have the ability to do so? I don’t imagine Lionel Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas et al leaving the Nou Camp now, and the same applies to the likes of Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso and Mesut Ozil, all of whom seem completely content to see out their days in Madrid. If, however, you argue “no”, then you agree with me that splashing out on a strong squad is only temporarily beneficial, and with the numbers that are trading hands these days for such squads, you can’t help but worry about where the game is going.
Berbatov, being the suave, dignified man that he is, will probably leave Old Trafford gently, without any anger, most probably with a jazz soundtrack playing. A man so elegant deserves a similarly elegant send-off, and so, I, as well as some of the Ballsy Banter crew, have contributed to a section I call “Ode To Berbatov”.
I’m not sure you could run
But Berbz, we had our fun
Just score some more before you go
So that the job is done.
Dimitar, Dimitar, why aren’t they playing you? (To the tune of Phoebe’s ‘Smelly Cat’)
There was a striker at United
Whose will to play was unrequited
Though last year’s top scorer
He couldn’t be poorer
Which left Welbeck and others delighted!
There once was a vampire Number Nine
Who liked a glass of red wine
Smoked twenty a day
Walked about more than play
And was often afraid of sunshine.
He used to play for Bulgaria
His gelled hair couldn’t be scarier
He is tall and strong
He doesn’t run for long
He never contracted malaria.
A signing named Berba
Made United fans murmur
With glee, they were over the moon!
Many years later
He hasn’t gotten much greater
And will be packed off to Paris in June.