United star Dimitar Berbatov reveals kidnapping ordeal
Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov has confirmed that he was the victim of a kidnapping ten years ago when representing CSKA Sofia as a teenager.
According to the Times, at the age of 18 Berbatov was snatched following a training session as Bulgarian gangster Georgi Iliev, who has since been killed, tried to coerce the striker to sign for his own club, Levski Kjustendil.
Berbatov managed to contact his father, Ivan, who intervened on his behalf, but it is still a period in the striker's life that he would wish to forget.
"That's true," Berbatov told the Times. "It was a horrific ordeal but a long time ago now. That was a time back then, you know."
Berbatov recovered from that early trauma to become a star on the European stage with Bayer Leverkusen, subsequently earning a move to the Premier League with Tottenham before Manchester United came calling in the summer of 2008.
The striker has failed to fully convince at times in a United shirt and has scored only 16 goals in 53 games since his club record £30.7 million transfer. Berbatov admits that his price tag has placed him under excessive pressure to perform.
"Sometimes the pressure is too big," Berbatov said. "I don't dispute when somebody has paid so much money for you they are expecting great things, but sometimes you are under so much pressure you don't feel calm.
"For me to play very good, I need to feel calm, I need to feel the support of the players and the fans. Against Wolfsburg [in midweek] it was like a release. The demands of playing for United were not a surprise. I joined the best team in the world, so of course there were going to be high demands on my performances. It can be a really hard time, but you need to deal with this.
"If you don't have someone to talk to about it, it's really hard. You talk with the manager [Ferguson] because he is the boss. But when I go home I talk with my father, an ex-player, and my friends just to release the pressure. In my opinion, when a player feels calm, then you can perform to the best of your ability.
"I don't think there is any player who likes to be left on the bench. It's not like you hear you're on the bench and go 'great'. It's very disappointing. Of course the fee brings extra pressure with it. I always said it was a ridiculous amount of money, but it's the life we are living now."