Sunday, January 17, 2010

Berbatov v Robinho: A Tale of the Tape

Has any Premiership player been more criticized over the past eighteen months than Dimitar Berbatov? When he came to Manchester United from Spurs at the start of last season, he had never scored more than 15 league goals in either of his two plus seasons for Tottenham. His career best is 21 league goals, for Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, in the 2005-06 season. Obviously his 9 goals in 32 league games last year was a big disappointment for United supporters, but it's not all that surprising to me. He came into a squad that featured the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. I think any player would find it tough to outshine those two stars.

At 32.5m pounds, Manchester City's Robinho came into the Premier League as the most expensive signing of the 2008 summer transfer window. He was the first piece in what was hoped would be a transformation in to the next super club of European football...a stepping stone to bringing even bigger names to the blue side of Manchester. Looking back, that may have been a bit too much to ask of a man who had never scored more than 15 goals in three seasons at Real Madrid, where his supporting cast included Raul and Ruud van Nistleroy, two of the more prolific strikers in all of football. Robinho went from a medium fish in a big pond to a big fish in a small pond.

Ultimately, I think a bit too much was expected of Berbatov and Robinho. They didn't negotiate their overly inflated transfer fees. They simply agreed to switch clubs per an agreement on wages. Is a player going to double or triple his output because of a huge wage increase? Unlikely.

Are numbers a true measure of a player's productivity and worth? Well, I believe that depends on the type of player. Are they a skill player? A specialist? Injury prone?, etc. Statistics can be deceiving and are subject to interpretation in my mind. So let's compare Berbatov and Robinho's "contributions" over the last season and a half.

Dimitar Berbatov

Transfer fee: 30.75mGBP

Wages: 100-110k wk

2008-09 games: 40

2008-09 goals: 14

2009-10 games: 17

2009-10 goals: 7
(all competitions)

Shots/Goal ratio 0.185(better than avg @ Spurs)


Transfer fee: 32.5m GBP

Wages: 160k wk

2008-09 games: 31

2008-09 goals: 15

2009-10 games: 11

2009-10 goals: 0

Shots/goal ratio: 0.12

These numbers are just that, numbers. A player's contribution to his team is not measured by statistics alone. It's his work off the ball, his versatility, attitude, fitness, and much more. So judge for yourself which club got the better deal. Manchester United, with the unassuming and oft perceived lazy Dimitar Berbatov? Or Manchester City and the flashy showman Robinho?

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