A couple of weeks ago, Kerala Blasters bolstered their Indian Super League (ISL) squad for the upcoming season by adding Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov to their ranks. The former Manchester United and Fulham striker joins former teammate Wes Brown in what will be a grand reunion with former coach Rene Meulensteen for a new-look Kerala Blasters side.
Speaking exclusively to Goal, the 36-year-old forward spoke about his switch to Indian Super League and how is relishing a completely new challenge. The former Premier League Golden Boot winner spoke of the crucial role that his coach Rene Meulensteen played in bringing him to the Yellow Army.
"The big factor was the coach. We spoke on the phone, and he explained that he would like to work with me again. Knowing how he sees football, it was not a difficult decision to make. Of course, the club was showing they want me very much, always speaking with my agent, treating us with respect, and this was enough to convince me that I need to take this challenge in this new league!" revealed a delighted Berbatov.
The newly appointed Kerala Blasters coach was an assistant coach to Sir Alex Ferguson during Berbatov's trophy laden stint in Manchester and he then later recruited the striker for Fulham during Meulensteen's first managerial stint in the Premier League.
"It's the third time we are going to work together, he knows me very well, he knows how I like to play football, what I need in training to feel good and to be in the best shape for my years. We won some trophies together so let's hope we can bring one to Kerala as well!" remarked Berbatov.
Kerala Blasters are two-time finalists in the league but the Kerala crowd has had to go home disappointed on both occasions. The additions of Berbatov and Brown is expected re-vitalize the squad for a fresh title challenge in the fourth edition of the league. The former Monaco striker, however, has refused to speak of Kerala Blasters as the final destination in his football career.
"I love football, I have been blessed to play for great clubs, with great players, win trophies, score goals, so I hope I can go a bit longer. With the right training methods, I think I can stay in shape and play more football in the future."
Berbatov also spoke of the similarity between Sir Alex Ferguson and Kerala Blasters coach Rene Meulensteen. "I think they both love football so much. They want to win every game. I think working for Sir Alex, is a great way to learn about football, get that winning mentality, and I am sure that Rene is fully prepared for the challenges that lie ahead of him."
The new Kerala Blasters striker also touched upon the large fan base of Kerala and hopes to turn it into a 'theatre of dreams'.
"When you fill the stadium every time with more than 50000 fans, then you need to give them something special. I always try to play beautiful football, always want to win, and I will try my best to do this with my new club!" he concluded.
The striker, who has played alongside the likes of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United, will now take the field with two of ISL's top forwards Iain Hume and CK Vineeth.