Dimitar Berbatov's career at Indian Super League (ISL) side Kerala Blasters is off to an injury-hit start. The Bulgarian striker went three games without a goal before picking up an injury in his team's fourth match against FC Goa. However, the Kerala-based side's marquee player is hopeful of a return to action by end of the year.
The striker said, "I feel great at the moment. Everybody is very polite. People around the club, the players obviously. I have no problems adapting. The only problem is that I am injured. That is going to be okay as well," said Berbatov, without revealing an exact date for his return to action.
"You should probably as the doctor [the date of return] because he doesn't want to give information away. The sooner, the better but we don't want to risk anything. We put the deadline on [December] 31st but it's not worth risking if I don't feel well."
Despite playing most of his career as a centre-forward, the former Manchester United man doesn't consider his new deeper midfield role as unchartered territory.
"It is not difficult as long as you understand football the way I do. When you start to get older, you see it from a different angle. Even in training session at [Manchester] United and Spurs, sometimes I play midfield. Obviously, I like to play a lot with the ball. It is a moment in my career when I have to drop back a little bit," conceded Berbatov.
"I prefer a bit deeper role to control, to make more touches on the ball. Doesn't mean that if I have a chance I am not going to try and score. That is my nature. As the season progresses, the only thing I want is to recover and stay healthy. As long as you are healthy, everything will be fine."
Dimitar Berbatov indicated this shift in responsibility as a chance for other young players to come to the spotlight, "I prefer to play as midfielder starting the attack. I always like to see young people coming, to see them work and grow. They can get the spotlight. I want to teach the young people the way I see football. The way I eat, the way I am in training. The small details are important if you want to be a good player."
The former AS Monaco player also touched upon the state of Indian football, suggesting that Indian players are better off playing elsewhere in order to test themselves against the best.
"This is my role here. To teach the young players who have a good potential to grow. The only thing they need is someone to guide them in the right direction. One thing is to play in your country but if you go outside you get out of your comfort zone. Hopefully one day, young Indian players here can go to Europe. If you want to test yourself, you want to play against the best. "
"It is the fourth year for this league now. It is so early, you can only grow from here. It is going to be a long road. As long you try to do the right thing, everything will be fine. It will be good to see someone from India play in a big club in Europe."
Berbatov has a former colleague with him at Kerala Blasters in defender-turned-midfielder Wes Brown, who made a late debut due an injury picked up in pre-season. Brown bossed the midfield in his debut, leading his former Manchester United colleague to believe he might be the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle in the middle-third of the pitch for Blasters.
"We have a guy who can play midfield who can destroy. He can smash people around, take the ball, and pass it around."
"When you have someone like Wes who has won every trophy possible, he is an instrumental part of the team. With his experience, the way he plays football, I think he can be a major force from now until the end of the season. I know when I play, If I look back and see Wes, I know he is going to smash people around and pass it to me."
Dutch youngster Mark Sifneos has taken over as the main striker at Blasters this season. The 19-year-old has two goals in 317 minutes of action so far and the Bulgarian has a few words of advice for the young man.
"I am happy to see him perform well, train well. At the same time, nothing special has happened. We just started. I told him to stay healthy. Don't try to overcomplicate things, I told him. Focus on yourself, work hard like Ronaldo used to do. Keep it simple. Football is a simple game. It is not difficult to play football, just pass the ball around."
It has not been easy for Berbatov to adapt to the standards of football in India. For a player who played alongside some of the best in the world of football, that is hardly surprising.
"I can see it. It is different for me. I can speak only for myself. Of course, it is different from what I used to play. But it is a good different. I don't have anything to prove anymore. I just try to enjoy as much as I can."
"You get frustrated, it is normal. When you are emotional, and you want to win, you show your emotions. Sometimes, you over-dramatise things. You want every ball to be perfect, it can not be good for you and your teammates. You need to be want to be better, to score the perfect goal. If you try hard enough, it is going to happen sooner or later."
Dimitar Berbatov's new team boasts a large number of supporters who turn up at every match. While the support has been immense, the player is not fond of player chants inside the stadium.
"It is more than what I expected. The fans are special. It doesn't matter if it is a win or loss. They are behind us and they are passionate. Personally, I never liked someone sing songs for me. This is not who I am. Overall, they are great."
Lastly, Blasters' Bulgarian dismissed concerns regarding the poor start made by his team and joked that in-form side FC Goa have been lucky because he had been sidelined in the last few games.
"Goa were lucky, I was injured! There are a lot of games to play anyway. Focus on my own team, not other teams. This is what I am looking for. I am not bothered about the other teams. They need to change their system accordingly [when they play us], not us," remarked a confident Dimitar Berbatov.
Kerala Blasters travel to Chennai to take on Chennaiyin FC in their 6th match of the season on Friday.