Big Lang Theory: In praise of Dimitar Berbatov



A smooth trumpet solo quivers on the warm night air. The moon is bright and low in the sky, as if too tired to climb the stairs to bed. The camera sweeps down the lawn of an English country manor, through the window and into a mood-lit anteroom.

Inside, a man lies spread-eagled across a chaise longue, smoking a cigarette. On the floor to his right lies a bowler hat, cast aside with gay abandon. To his left, a snuffbox and cane – eternal hallmarks of a dandy lifestyle.

The man, in case you’re uneducated enough not to recognise him (shame on you), is Dimitar Berbatov.

Hundreds of miles away, amidst the busy rattle of London, minions are ferreting away, finalising paperwork. This, of course, is Transfer Deadline Day, a 24-hour period during which the great unwashed get to live the brief ecstasies and myriad disappointments of capitalism in microcosm. It is a day of fretting, of planning and of cursing.

The Toff’s future, too, is being decided. A deal has been thrashed out. Our gadabout is destined for the city, for a new stage on which to showcase his hefty portfolio of effortless flourishes.

But our 18th century man of leisure doesn’t trouble himself with such worldly issues. He operates on an altogether higher plane, concerned more with Rousseau than with Rooney. He has never actually heard of Fulham, although the name Martin Jol does ring a bell. (Wasn’t he that Austrian viola tutor that Oswald so offended at the debutantes’ ball two springs ago? My mind plays tricks.)

There was a time when he cared more. Once, in the industrial heartland of Manchester, The Toff threw himself into working life with a verve most unbecoming of a man of his stature. “I know I can develop here in the way I always wanted. I always believed,” he said, despite himself.

But Berba got burnt. By fans who didn’t understand. By comparisons with players who could run six marathons but couldn’t take your breath away in a vacuum. By the silence of his own charm. And eventually – improbably – by Sir Alex Ferguson, the bustling union leader who initially took a chance on the Bulgarian aesthete.

The Toff won’t make that mistake again. His only commitment now is to the good life, and who can blame him? He has the misfortune of living among luddites who don't have the brainpower to comprehend his unbridled majesty. Those with even the smallest drop of love in their hearts, though, will hope that life in the capital treats him well.

And wait… listen carefully. On the breeze. That sound. A piano line has joined the trumpet. Bryan Ruiz, another man of the night, knocks at the door of the Berba-mansion. In his hand, a £700 bottle of artisan vermouth. Kindred spirits entwine. The camera pans away.