“There’s only one Dennis Bergkamp, One Dennis Bergkamp, walking along, singing a song, walking in a Bergkamp wonderland.”
This chant still sends shivers down my spine. Oh, what a player he was. The memories the Dutchman provided his fans are so special – the Leicester hatrick,that Newcastle goal or the one against Argentina. All sublime. He was a true magician that made scoring great goals an art form. And now Arsenal have verified that the club will be immortalizing the former striker in bronze outside the Emirates in the very near future.
His early career was spent at Dutch powerhouse Ajax where he scored an impressive 103 goals in 185 appearances over a seven-year period. It’s easy to see why many of Europe’s big boys were banging on the door. After declaring Serie A “The biggest league at the time” on February 16th, 1993, he decided to join Italian giants Inter Milan for 7.1million. It looked a match made in heaven, but sadly his Italian dream quickly turned into a nightmare. He didn’t settle well and the press was extremely harsh on him, so after just two years and 52 games, scoring just 11 goals, he decided to move to pastured new.
In the summer of 1995 that new home become Highbury. He was signed by Bruce Rioch who took a chance by smashing the club record fee paying 7.5 million for his services. His Arsenal career didn’t start well as the English media were all over him, but despite that still managed a respectable 11 goals in 33 games – not too bad for his first season really. It wasn’t until Arsene Wenger joined in September of 1996 that Bergkamp’s career really began to thrive, propelling him to become an Arsenal great that will never ever be forgotten.
What made him special? What made him that much different from “normal” players? Ex-Gunners great Ian Wright said, “If he were in ‘Star Trek’, he’d be the best player in whatever solar system he was in.” Wenger put it this way; “Nobody will ever forget Dennis Bergkamp – and everybody who will play in this position for years to come will be compared to Dennis Bergkamp. As much as Thierry Henry is a top target striker, Dennis Bergkamp as a provider was unique.”
He had everything; a magician who had that amazingly ability to pull rabbits from a top hat making the hardest skill look effortlessly simple. He transfixed opposing defenders, making them look like idiots, twisting and turning them inside out. He had the uncanny ability to make those quality 30-40yard passes the the norm. Want proof? In March 2002 against Newcastle, Bobby Robson said, “You can’t blame anyone for that. You just have to accept that Bergkamp did a beautiful thing.” Robson was alluding to a truly legendary goal scored by Dennis where he flicked the ball one way, turned another before coolly side footing it home with the defenders bamboozled with shock (YouTube it, it’s unreal).
His partnership with Thierry Henry was electric. Really, it was a dream duo. Their pace, skill, talent and just about everything in between the two helped Arsenal to a trophy filled era of success winning 3 League titles and 4 FA cups. The pinnacle of Brgkamp’s Arsenal career has to be 2002-2003 season when he was part of the legendary Arsenal side that become known as “the Invincibles” after amazingly going the entire domestic season unbeaten. Truly, that season will go down amongst the best by any club in any league as they achieved the feat in such a high quality league.
Dennis Bergkamp is seen as a one of the games greats, one which Arsenal fans will always hold dearly to their heart’s. He is a true football legend that deserves nothing but respect after enthralling Arsenal fans for 11 years, making 423 appearances, hitting the onion bag 120 times (most were sublime, too). I really could talk about him all night – just ask anyone from one of my local pubs. I think I will end this with a little song – come on Gooners, sing up…
“There’s only one Dennis Bergkamp,One Dennis Bergkamp,walking along, singing a song, walking in a Bergkamp wonderland.”
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Photo Credit: Paul & Aline Burland, Wiki Commons