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Dennis Bergkamp: Premier League Icon And Arsenal Legend

A handful of Dutch legends gathered for a dinner in an Amsterdam house. As the night wore on, the conversation inevitably turned to ‘who was the greatest Dutch player of all time?’ Instantly, the great striker Jan Mulder chose a player who had come close but never won the Ballon d’Or or even a Champions League medal. “Dennis Bergkamp,” Mulder announced, “He had the finest technique.” The room went silent, Guus Hiddink nodded his head in agreement, and the matter was settled.

Dennis Bergkamp playing for Ajax

The Talent Of Dennis Bergkamp

Dennis Nicolaas Maria Bergkamp was born on the 10th May 1969 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. From an early age, his talent was apparent, earning him a place at the famous Ajax youth academy at the tender age of 12.

Honing his technical ability through the Ajax ranks, Bergkamp made his full senior debut at 17, going on to make 14 appearances that season. Glenn Hoddle was his childhood football hero who he admired for his soft touch, and Johan Cruyff was another, who once coached home in his Under 12 team while at Ajax.

The following season he became an integral part of the Ajax first team and achieved a number of honors, winning the Dutch League in 1990, the UEFA Cup in 1992, and the KNVB Cup in 1993.

Dennis Bergkamp was also the leading scorer in the Eredivisie and was voted Dutch Footballer of the Year both in 1992 and 1993. The Dutchman scored 122 goals in 239 games for his hometown club, before making a £12 million pound move to Internazionale in Milan.

Bergkamp’s transfer made him the second most expensive player at the time, behind Gianluigi Lentini. At this time, Serie A was seen as the best league in the world.

Despite winning another UEFA Cup in 1994, his time at Internazionale was much less successful. The Italian press criticized Dennis Bergkamp severely for his poor form and inability to adapt to the Italian style.

inter milan player dennis bergkamp

Unhappy Years In Italy

They even renamed the “donkey of the week” (an award given to the worst player) the “Bergkamp of the week” award. Bergkamp spent two very unhappy years in Italy before moving to Arsenal, where he would truly show the world what a great player he was.

Bruce Rioch replaced George Graham as Arsenal manager and signed Bergkamp for £7.5 million pounds in June 1995. Previously the Gunners were labeled as “Boring, Boring Arsenal” under GeorgeGraham, but the signing of Dennis Bergkamp proved the beginning of a new, altogether more beautiful Arsenal side in the Premier League.

It did take him seven games before he got his first goal, however, but slowly but surely Dennis Bergkamp found his form scoring a brace against Southampton and never looking back.

Rioch’s time at Arsenal came to an abrupt end and in 1996 Arsene Wenger took the reins. This was when Bergkamp found his best form and as a focal point of Arsene’s revitalized Arsenal, his technique, vision, and class was the main contributor to Arsenal’s return to success, after a brief period of mediocrity in the mid-90s.

Deployed as a second striker behind Ian Wright, the two strikers created a formidable partnership, landing the Gunners the Premier League and the FA Cup in the 1997-1998 season, with Dennis Bergkamp voted the PFA Player of the Year.

dennis bergkamp making his arsenal debut optimised

Hat-Trick Of Goals Of The Month Awards

In September 1997, Bergkamp became the first and so far the only player to have come first, second and third in Goals of the Month (including two goals from his hat-trick against Leicester City and one against Southampton).

Dennis Bergkamp picked out the third goal of his hat-trick as his favorite goal of all time. He was quoted saying, “It was one of those occasions when everything went exactly as I planned it in the second before it happened – the movement, the control, the finish.”

Bergkamp’s success at Arsenal continued, winning the Double again in the 2001-2002 season, scoring the Premier League Goal of the Season with his ingenious flick against Newcastle United along the way.

With another FA Cup in 2003, an unbeaten Premier League winning season in 2004, and the FA Cup in 2005, Bergkamp’s illustrious career came to an end in the 2006 season.

The Arsenal fans bid an emotional farewell to Highbury, as well as to one of the most talented and influential players in the club’s history. Dennis Bergkamp scored a total of 120 goals in 411 games. Not bad for a player who doesn’t do tap-ins.

Making his international debut in 1990, The Dutch star did not enjoy nearly as much success for the Netherlands, but he still produced some great moments on the biggest stage. Although impressing at the 1992 Euros and the 1994 World Cup, Dennis Bergkamp found his best form at the 1998 World Cup, scoring one of the most memorable goals of all time, in a quarter-final against Argentina.

statue of dennis bergkamp

Dennis Begkamp Retirement

The next major tournament, the 2002 World Cup, would be played in Japan and South Korea. Bergkamp’s fear of flying would prevent him from traveling, so he decided to announce his international retirement just after the 2000 Euros. The Arsenal fans nicknamed him ‘The non-flying Dutchman’.

He ended his international career first on the all-time list of goal scorers for the Dutch national team, with 37 goals in 79 games, although this record was later surpassed by Patrick Kluivert.

Even though Bergkamp stated that he didn’t wish to be a coach, he served as an assistant at Ajax between 2011 and 2017. Bergkamp is destined for a future in coaching or even management, reiterating his ambition to one day return to Arsenal.

With a textbook technique, a magnificent footballing brain, and an eye for a killer pass, whatever Dennis Bergkamp did on a football pitch oozed class. He played the sport effortlessly and produced some of the classiest and most beautiful football Europe has ever seen.

A natural talent who made the sport into an art; Dennis Bergkamp is the true “Dutch Master”. Always stylish, sometimes breathtaking, and occasionally a bit naughty. He transformed the image of Arsenal Football Club from his debut until his retirement.

jaap stam and dennis bergkamp coaching at ajax

His Favourite Game Of All Time

ARSENAL v MIDDLESBROUGH (Premier League on 22 August 2004 at Highbury Stadium)

It was not a Championship clincher or a Cup final or even a 1-0 dogfight with Manchester United, but the 5-3 walloping of Middlesbrough in a Premier League match, when Arsenal recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win with an attacking fluency that bordered on the delirious.

“That was special,” Bergkamp says. “I was captain for the day – I really felt like I was a leader on the pitch.”

henry and bergkamp celebrating scoring a goal

What They Said About Dennis Bergkamp

If Ryan Giggs is worth £20m, Dennis Bergkamp is worth £100m – Marco Van Basten

Can you not say he is the best player in the world right now? If there is a better one, then I have not seen him – Arsene Wenger

I have always said Dennis Bergkamp will remain the best partner I have ever had. He is a dream for a striker – Thierry Henry

Dennis Bergkamp Facts And Figures

Full Name: Dennis Nicolaas Maria Bergkamp

Birthdate: 10th May 1969

Birthplace: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Career Statistics

Playing Career:

  • Ajax 1986–1993
  • Inter Milan 1993–1995
  • Arsenal 1995–2006

Total Games: 552 Appearances And 201 Goals

National Playing Career:

  • Netherlands (79 Appearances, 37 Goals)

Coaching Career:

  • Ajax (Assistant Coach) 2011-2017

Playing Honors:

Ajax

  • 1986–87: European Cup Winners’ Cup
  • 1986–87 and 1992–93: KNVB Cup
  • 1989-90: Eredivisie Champions
  • 1991-92: UEFA Cup Winners

Inter Milan

  • 1993-94: UEFA Cup Winners

Arsenal

  • 1997–98, 2001–02, and 2003–04: Premier League Champions
  • 1997-98, 2001–02, 2002–03, and 2004–05: FA Cup Winners

Individual Honors:

  • 1991 and 1992: Dutch Footballer of the Year
  • 1990–91, 1991–92, and 1992–93: Dutch Eredivisie Top Scorer
  • 1992: UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament
  • 1992: Ballon d’Or third place
  • 1993: Ballon d’Or second place
  • 1997-98: PFA Team of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, and PFA Players’ Player of the Year
  • 2021: Premier League Hall Of Fame

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