26/05/2014 17:02 BST | Updated 26/07/2014 06:59 BST

Player Focus: Berbatov Can Become Falcao's Perfect Foil for Monaco


On Tuesday, Monaco confirmed what many had suspected was imminent and announced the sacking of Claudio Ranieri. Rumours had been circulating for weeks that the 'Tinkerman' would be shown the exit door and it proved only a matter of time before Les Rouges et Blanc relieved him of his duties.

Expected to succeed Ranieri at the Stade Louis II helm is Leonardo Jardim, on the back of his successful debut campaign with Sporting Lisbon. While Ranieri's record for Monaco this term would have been enough to win seven of the 12 Championnat's since it was expanded to 20 teams in 2002, many believe the imminent appointment of Jardim is a step in the right direction.

The 39-year-old led Sporting to a second place finish in the Liga ZON Sagres this term, with the team winning 25 more points and netting 18 more goals than they had in the previous campaign. This successful, attacking brand of football is what Monaco owner Dmitry Rybolovlev craves and Jardim seemingly has the pedigree to deliver this.

With the likes of James Rodríguez, Radamel Falcao and Emmanuel Rivière available to the Venezuelan, and other attack-minded stars tipped to arrive this summer, he should have the personnel to put his plans in practice. A further offensive asset that can be utilised is Dimitar Berbatov.

The Bulgarian moved to the French Riviera in January and last week signed a one-year contract extension with Monaco. The decision to award him a new deal came on the back of a commendable run of form to end the term strongly, including a run in which the 33-year-old scored five goals and assisted two more in his last six appearances of the season.


His performances will likely have Jardim pondering how to accommodate Berbatov, last season's top goalscorer Rivière and the returning Falcao in attack. The latter is expected to start, but it remains to be seen whether the incoming head coach will adopt a similar set up to the one Ranieri did.

This often saw Monaco start with two strikers and Rodríguez in support. Should Jardim continue with this system, it's likely one of either Berbatov or Rivière will miss out on a place in the starting XI. Falcao's form dropped when paired with a striker who performed similarly to him, which could see Berbatov tasked with forming a striking relationship with the Colombian.

Berbatov prefers to drop deeper to receive the ball in the final third, utilising the creative aspect of his game to bring others into play. As a result, the striker has developed a WhoScored strength of 'holding onto the ball', with Berbatov using his strength to ward off opposition defenders and give teammates the chance to move into better goalscoring positions.

Falcao, for example, has the footballing brain and tenacity to make clever runs beyond the backline that a player of Berbatov's ilk can exploit. Despite his short time with the club, only Rodríguez (12) and João Moutinho (eight) registered more Ligue one assists this season than Berbatov (four) of every Monaco player, with all of those coming in Falcao's absence.


With the Colombia international expected to return in time for pre-season, Berbatov will have the opportunity to work with his teammate and forge a partnership that could take Ligue 1 by storm. Of course that is not to say the former Bulgaria international won't also offer a goalscoring threat for Monaco.

Only Rivière (10), Rodríguez and Falcao (both nine) netted more than Berbatov (six) in France's top tier this season for Monaco. His goals and assists return means that, despite his short time in France, only Rodríguez (21) and Rivière (12) directly contributed to more league goals than Berbatov (10) of every Monaco player this campaign, the striker therefore having a hand in 15.9% of their goals.

There is the possibility that Jardim could set his side up in a 4-2-3-1, with Berbatov operating behind Falcao, but that would see Rodríguez either dropped or played out of position. The midfielder is one of the most potent creative threats in France's top tier, so playing him behind the strikers is the ideal way to harness his ability. However, Ranieri's supposed successor has the tactical nous to integrate a system that will bring out the best in his Colombian attackers and Berbatov, which could see Monaco retain the two-striker system.

With an average rating of 7.17 in his 12 league appearances for Monaco, there is no doubt that Berbatov has hit the ground running in France. A full pre-season under his belt with the club under a new manager means there is the possibility that he and Falcao could form an impressive partnership that will go a long way towards usurping PSG at the summit of Ligue 1.

Do you think Dimitar Berbatov can bring out the best in Falcao for Monaco? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below

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