Manchester United transfer rumors: Is Dimitar Berbatov leaving in January?

Dimitar Berbatov has been linked with Aznhi Makhachkala and Paris Saint-Germain

There has been much speculation regarding Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbabov recently and as is typical in these situations, it is not entirely clear what is accurate. Statements have been made this week by both Berbatov's agent, Emil Danchev, and from United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and from these, conclusions have been made. These may or may not be accurate. First of all, here is what Danchev told the Mirror in regards to the possibility of Berbatov joining Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala:

"We would be interested when Anzhi make a concrete offer. We will sit down with Dimitar and ponder this. I don't know if Dimitar is happy in Manchester. He plays, then he just sits on the bench."

The Mirror is reporting that the recently rich Anzhi are willing to pay Berbatov £7.5 million a season but he may be holding out for £12 million. They imply that if a compromise is reached, the deal could be done with Anzhi paying United a £15 milllion transfer fee. If this is true, take the money and run Fergie!

After Fergie's press conference today ahead of United's tie tomorrow at Swansea City, various media outlets reported that Berbatov will be given another year at Old Trafford. This may not necessarily be true. Here are the statements made earlier today by Fergie in regards to the recent speculation that striker is leaving soon:

"Yes. I have read some things but there is absolutely no reason for me to let him go. He is an outstanding footballer and it is unfortunate that the form of Chicharito over the last year has been outstanding, but he [Berbatov] plays a great role and he trains well. He has no complaints. He is a great professional and we are happy for him to be here."

Source: ManUtd.com

Well actually, it is not unfortunate Javier Hernandez's (Chicharito) form has been so good the past year. It is actually quite fortunate. Unless you are Berbatov. Anyway...

Berbatov's current contract runs out after the season but there is a clause in it that allows the option for United to extend it for another year. When asked today whether the Bulgarian's contract would be extended, here is how Fergie responded:

"He’s still a young man. You need a good number of strikers in the modern day. If you look back to 1999, we had four great strikers. They all played their part. That is exactly what will happen today."

Seemingly, it is from these last two statements where many have concluded that Berbatov's contract with United will be extended for another season. However, that may not be what is actually going on.

As many are aware, Berbatov was United's most expensive signing ever in 2008 when he was brought over from Tottenham Hotspur for a fee in the region of £30 million. Since then, his form has been sporadic. Last season was certainly the striker's biggest contribution at the club when he tied for the Premier League's Golden Boot with 20 goals. Despite this, he was overtaken by Chicharito for the run-in and he was even shockingly omitted from the bench, in favor of Michael Owen, for the Reds' UEFA Champions League final in May. Perhaps even more surprising -- and certainly to his credit -- Berbatov did not complain (publicly at least) and returned to United for the current season. Thus far, he has only made one start in league and one start in the Champions League. He clearly has fallen behind Chicharito, Wayne Rooney, and Danny Welbeck in the pecking order.

It would make perfect sense if Berbatov wanted to leave Old Trafford and I doubt even the most cynical United fan could criticize him for that. If United were to be offered £15 million for the 30-year-old, they would be foolish to turn it down. A fit Michael Owen still provides a decent fourth option at striker and even when he is not fit, this still provides opportunity for youngsters Federico Macheda and Mame Birmam Diouf. Assuming a plethora of injuries did not strike United's strike force, they would be fine with a possible Berbatov departure.

It is also certainly logical if clubs like Anzhi or Paris Saint-Germain -- who each made bold moves in the past transfer window -- are in discussions with United over a possible transfer. What may be occurring is that United is looking to offload Berbatov and that his contract may be extended so that the club has more leverage in transfer fee negotiations. The clubs pursuing would not be able to simply wait out the current season and sign Berbatov in the Summer. If a transfer deal cannot be worked out, then Fergie's comments today simply covers the fact that United are fortunate to have him as the current fourth choice at striker. Unless somebody has insider information on the matter, this seems like the logical scenario at the current moment.

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