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Aug 18, 2008

Berbatov's move is long overdue

In a summer of long, drawn-out transfers has there been a more tiresome and protracted deal than the one involving Manchester United's move for Tottenham Hotspur's Dimitar Berbatov?

Let us leave to one side the question as to whether the slouching striker is the right player for United's needs, or if his temperament will be found wanting under the Old Trafford microscope, and simply ask Spurs to accept the inevitable; not just for the sake of those who are growing weary with the whole sorry situation, but also for the good of the club.

The continued uncertainty surrounding the Bulgarian, who has hit an impressive 46 goals for Spurs in all competitions in just two seasons, is beginning to have a negative impact on other players and the supporters.

Sadly for Gareth Southgate, Spurs' uninspiring performance in Saturday's 2-1 defeat away to Middlesbrough owed as much to Boro's impressive and promising start to the campaign as it did to a disjointed Spurs performance.

True, there were a few bight moments for Spurs, notably David Bentley and Giovani Dos Santos, just as there were other problems, notably the ineffectual Luca Modric; but the main worry was the perplexing decision to bench Berbatov and then his crotchety turn when he joined the game in the 65th minute.

If the 27-year-old is too distracted to play from the start, surely he does not merit a spot on the bench. And if he is capable of playing, surely he should be on from the start? Why would you start your best player on the bench?

In his 25 minutes on the pitch Berbatov was insipid, skulking about in trademark fashion with hunched shoulders and a slightly bored look on his face. He had a shot, committed a foul, was fouled himself, had a bit of hissy fit when he got closed down after running into three Boro players and moaned at Jermaine Jenas when the midfielder didn't pass to him.

The hardy 4,000 or so travelling Spurs fans gave Berbatov a mixed reception; while half booed his appearance the others greeted him with an indifference born out of boredom, frustration and resignation to the inevitable.

If only Cristiano Ronaldo had done the decent thing and joined Real Madird earlier in the summer, then we could have avoided this elongated phase of procrastinating.

After the European Championships the transfer dominos had been set to fall like this: Ronaldo was supposed to go Real, so Real could sell Robinho to Chelsea, while United would have bought Berbatov thus providing Spurs the extra cash to spend on Andrei Arshavin.

Fortunately for United fans, and sadly for those of us who wanted a dramatic start to the transfer window, Ronaldo stayed and effectively stalled the market.

Now Berbatov's agent begins the 'most important week yet' in his client's career.

There are whispers that a deal between Spurs and United is at an advanced stage with a fee of between £25million and £28million agreed in principle with the structure of that payment yet to be finalised.

If we're lucky the Berbatov saga will finally be brought to a conclusion this week and we can all go back to laughing at Liverpool's inability to buy Gareth Barry in the summer's other overly long transfer saga.

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