Meet the unreal Dimitar Berbatov

In this month's FourFourTwo we interview five of the finest fakes on Twitter, from Berbatov to Blatter. This week on we'll bring you the full interviews – starting with everyone's favourite languid Bulgarian, Dimitar Berbatov, as created by designers Adam Bright (27) and Joe Burke (25)...

Q: When did you decide to make the account and how did it come about?
Adam: We thought the Phil Brown Twitter account was brilliant when we first read it, and then towards the end it was just him swearing… So we thought "It’s a good idea, why don’t we do one?" Also, we’re both United fans, we both like Berbatov, and we both thought he’s so easy to satirise.
Joe: He’s never in the press or getting things wrong.
Adam: So we just thought we’d do a silly one. It was the Phil Brown one that inspired us initially.

Q: It was always going to be Berbatov? There weren’t any other temptations?
Adam: It was so off the cuff. One of us just went "Let’s do it," the other said "Alright then" and we just did it. We got our Head of Innovation, who’s really prolific on Twitter, to repost it, and a friend of mine who's also really big in social media planning reposted it. We got a couple of hundred [followers] straight away.

Q: So it kick-started quickly...
Adam: To be honest we only wanted to see if we could get a thousand. It was more like an experiment and then it just snowballed really. I think when it first really kicked on was when The Sun or The Mirror did a Top 10 and it just kicked off. Now we’re on nearly 40,000 and as soon as you tweet there’s so many retweets.

Q: You could say you’re comedians; is there a kind of stage fright?
Adam: Recently we haven’t tweeted as much because it’s getting a lot harder as we go on. I think we’ve set quite a good standard of what the tweets are like and I think they are quite good, and we can’t really go back on that. We use all brands which fit in with Berbatov:  what car would he drive?
Joe: My favourite thing about him is that he’ll never ever, ever talk about football.

Q: How many people do you get thinking you’re real?
Joe: About 50%.
Adam: I think more than that. I think most people don’t really get Twitter, so they just assume and think everyone is official.
Joe: They start worshipping for a while and you see the tweets begging for a retweet and then the next day they’re "I found out you’re a fake". They get really annoyed.
Adam: Loads of them are foreign, so I think that’s how it gets lost in translation.

Q: Had any requests from people who think you're real?
We get the odd one but it’s mainly retweets. We don’t really read many of the retweets, we don’t really get time, we just see how many retweets it gets. We love following how many followers there are though. When it was getting to 30,000 we sacked off half a day trying to get retweets and people to follow us.
Joe: You can look at the start when you’ve got like 500 followers to see who was actually following you, which is quite interesting because there were people like Will Carling and there were a load of cricketers as well. They were loving it.

Q: Have you had any complaints? Unlike most fake Twitter accounts, you don't have a disclaimer…
Our MD tried to play a prank on us; he pretended there was a letter from Man United threatening legal action, but we rumbled him quite quickly. And no, we haven’t had anything apart from that.
Joe: Ferguson was talking about us, saying about how no Man United players were Twitter.
Adam: Literally the day after we got put in The Sun, a Man United press release said their players do not use social media. I think they don’t mind now, but at the time they were pretty much "No one’s allowed to use it".

Q: It’s interesting that Twitter haven’t been in touch.
The first thing we did was to say we don’t want it to be slanderous. It's just a really obvious satire and not really about football. Even if Berbatov saw it and read it we’d hope he’d find it quite funny and obviously a joke. And if anyone does believe it’s real, it’s a bit silly.

Q: What do you think he’d make of it?
I don’t know because I don’t know anything about Dimitar Berbatov.
Adam: We’ve seen these pictures of him but then I’ve seen other ones and I’m thinking he looks a bit like a chav. I think he’s actually a bit of a Bulgarian chav.
Joe: The only bit of his character I’ve ever seen is when he did the Godfather impression and he seemed a bit timid at the time. I honestly do, even though I’m a big Man United fan, we both are, I can’t remember an interview with him.
Joe: In all of them he’s an enigma, isn’t he?

Q: If lots of people think it's real, you're kind of raising his profile...
We’ve had a few people in pubs tell us about Berbatov on Twitter, and we’re like "That’s us!".

Q: What makes a successful parody account? Are there rules you’ve got to follow?
Don’t oversaturate it. Don’t over-tweet. We created our tweets quite nicely and we didn’t flood it too much.
There’s a few people we follow who you don’t bother reading most of the stuff – you stream through it all. But then there’s one or two people that you will just look at it, whatever it is, because it’s always something quite good. Hopefully we want to be quite a good tweet. It was one every other day but now we do it like two a week because we’re quite busy at the moment. We also try and link it with what’s going on as well and whenever the season ends he always goes away for a month or two because we always he’s say going yachting. For the royal wedding, it was the Chelsea game that weekend he tweeted "Oh good, I’m in London for the royal wedding".

Q: Are there any that you think don’t get it right?
Most of them, the majority. Some of them don’t work: all they do is tweet loads, and they just mention other footballers. Even the Phil Brown one… it’s funny to think that Phil Brown swears all the time and he's always in a dressing gown or something like that, that’s funny, but that's as far is it went really.

Q: Would you ever consider doing another one?
The only other one we put any thought into was a grumpy teenager in our office who never spoke – but that would obviously only be funny in our office.
Adam: There are so many fake football Twitters, I don’t know if you could just start over again: if you took any popular player, there’d probably be a fake one already. I’d quite like to do another one like [Masterchef judge] John Torode or somebody like that – just someone who’s a weird character with some underlying clashes.

Q: Which fake Twitter accounts do you really like?
Big Sam.
Adam: I’ve only really seen a few of them but I honestly don’t think any are as good as ours. Joe: Someone referenced Big Sam and Berbatov the other day when they were talking to their friend about starting one up. And he was like, “Who shall I choose?” He picked Demba Ba. I mean, why? I think El-Hadji Diouf would be funny to read, a total a**hole.
Adam: You can’t take someone who’s too popular or famous. I think Berbatov worked because he’s at a massive club and was a big transfer but he’s not a massive character and isn’t in the press a lot, so I think people are kind of interested. I think it’s quite seductive and people really buy into it. I think it needs to be someone who’s not too prolific. Like a Rio Ferdinand one I don’t think would work – he’s a bit of a plonker anyway.

Q: How important is it do you think to strike that balance between absurdity and realism? Do you think people have to think that really could be him or could you to an extent write anything and people think it’s funny because it’s Berbatov saying it?
I don’t think we’ve ever really gone for realism at all. We’ve always gone for it being slightly plausible. We think about maintaining the character, we don’t really care if people think it’s not real. We more want people to think it’s a funny Twitter account.

Q: Do you feel a responsibility to do it often?
We were forcing ourselves to do it every other day because we had so many followers but I think now it’s just when the opportunity presents itself or when something pops into our heads. It’s getting hard to make it funny.

Q: So what does the future hold?
I think it’d have to be right to continue it. Plus whatever is right for the satire, stick to that: we don’t want something that doesn’t really feel right when you think up something. It takes up your time and there's all the pressure of making it funny. I think if he went to Tottenham or somewhere like that, I don’t think we’d bother to be honest.
Joe: I’d love it if he went to Paris and he’d literally drop all his English heritage and start again.

Q: Start wearing a beret and cycling round?
Yeah! "This is what I’ve always dreamed of. I hate England…"

For more from the fake Tweeters – including exclusive portraits of the men behind the accounts – see the September issue of FourFourTwo magazine