Dimitar Berbatov insists fans confuse his laid-back approach to football with a misguided belief that he does not care.
The Manchester United striker should be heading for the new campaign on a high after sharing the Premier League’s Golden Boot prize with Carlos Tevez and firing the Red Devils to a record 19th title.
Instead, Berbatov is facing up to what most would perceive to be the biggest challenge of his career after he did not even manage a place on the bench for the Champions League final.
The Bulgarian is said to have spent the 3-1 defeat to Barcelona alone and in tears, trying to mask his desolation from concerned club officials.
Last week, in Chicago’s Four Seasons Hotel, Berbatov was a more contented figure.
So obviously uncomfortable in an interview setting, the former Tottenham star had no wish to rake over the coals of that horrendous night.
However, speaking exclusively to Press Association Sport, he was keen to set the record straight about his attitude to the game.
“I am a very proud person,” said the 30-year-old.
“I don’t like to show my weaknesses. I don’t want to show my emotions in public.
“That is why people probably sometimes misjudge me.”
The truth is Berbatov wants to win. But he wants to win with style.
Throughout his career, no one criticised his style of play.
It was only following his arrival at Old Trafford, when demanding supporters watched him replace the obvious industry of Carlos Tevez, the sniping began at a player Sir Alex Ferguson was so convinced of he broke the club record by spending £30.75million.
“Yes,” he said, when asked if the claim he does not care bothers him.
“I always play like this. That is what got me here.
“You are not going to see me puffing around the pitch. There is a saying in Bulgaria that great quality doesn’t require much effort.”
If that awful experience at Wembley is a no-go area, and so too any discussion about his contract, which is about to enter its final year, Berbatov is happy to talk about other matters.
Closest to his heart is the Dimitar Berbatov Foundation aimed at children of talent back home in Bulgaria who lack the resources to make the most of their abilities.
Berbatov’s status as a role model sits comfortably on his shoulders, even if he recoils from the thought he could be regarded as an icon, reserving that status for his own hero, Hristo Stoichkov.
“When I was young, I was looking to people like Stoichkov,” he said.
“I told myself one day I would like to be as successful as him. Dreams do come true sometimes.”
Although there was one cataclysmic low, Berbatov experienced some dream days last year too.
The first United player to score a hat-trick against Liverpool in 64 years, a tally that included a magnificent overhead kick, the first non-Englishman to score five in a Premier League game, the Golden Boot for his 20-goal haul.
“I didn’t know scoring three goals against Liverpool would mean so much to so many people,” he reflected.
“Obviously three goals – and the second one was a bit special – it will stay in my memory for ever – and after that I scored five!
“What makes me really proud is that there have been so many foreigners playing in English football, I am the only one with five goals.
“But it is something I have to push to the back of my mind. Last season I had highs in my career. But what if we didn’t win the title? Then these things wouldn’t matter so much.”
Talking to Berbatov, it is clear that he does care, both about his team and his performance.
It seems he wants to be liked, not in an arrogant way, but as an individual who tried to do things a little differently.
“As a good player, doing things the fans enjoyed,” he replied, when asked how he would like to be remembered.
“I always tend to think my goals are beautiful goals. That is what I want to score; beautiful goals, and create beautiful chances.”
How long will that attitude prevail at Old Trafford, where the challengers, all younger, are queuing up to oust him?
Berbatov does not answer. What he is prepared to concede is that once leaving United, the only way is down.
“Smaller clubs might be able to match Manchester United with the way they play, with their organisation, everything. But Manchester United are at the top,” he said.
“Where can you go from there? Maybe Barcelona. At the moment, I don’t see anything else.
“If you go somewhere else it is a big step down.
“I come from a small country. I have the good fortune to play for Manchester United. For the time I am here I try to do my best and win everything there is to win.
“There is no other way I can play.”