Bergkamp: 'If you can't win the trophy with this Arsenal, who could you win it with?'

As a Dutchman, Dennis Bergkamp is the perfect witness to talk about multi-talented football teams who fail to fulfil their destiny. As a boy, he watched his country's near-misses at the 1974 and 1978 World Cups, while as a player, he was part of the exciting but flawed sides of the Nineties. "Glorious failures are the worst feeling," he admits.

At least there have been few such disappointments during his club career. The Dutch title with Ajax was followed by the Uefa Cup with Internazionale and then, in recent years, the double-Double with Arsenal. There is, Bergkamp believes, only one target remaining. Following his assertion in these pages last week that the current Arsenal team have rewritten the rules of football, the 33-year-old is now keen to see them spread the word across Europe. The Premier League title may say much about consistency, but the Champions' League trophy is the ultimate symbol of success.

"I think I speak for everyone connected with the club," explains Bergkamp, who has never been beyond the quarter-finals of the competition with Arsenal, "when I say that the European Cup is the one we're really keen on. In terms of prestige, the Champions' League is the biggest honour in club football and we, as a team, really deserve to win it. To be honest with you, I would find it very difficult to accept if this side didn't take the trophy. I mean, if you can't win the Champions' League with this Arsenal team, then who could you win it with?"

Bergkamp, though, knows that any talk of the latter stages is still premature. Arsenal may be in a healthy position at the top of Group B, following their wonderful win at Roma and the home draw with Valencia before the winter break, but qualification is by no means a formality. First up is a double-header with a club level on points with Arsenal, and even closer to Bergkamp's heart, Ajax. The Arsenal striker joined the Amsterdam club in 1980 as a 12-year-old with potential, and left 12 years later as a fully-fledged international. "I'm very excited about these two games," he says. "I was at Ajax for my formative years, so it's only normal that the place should hold very special memories for me.

"I remember the first time I walked through the doors. Arriving at the legendary Ajax school was such a proud moment for me, but also a slightly scary one. Out of around 200 kids, maybe one or two make it every year. The kids who don't are just asked to leave."

Two particular faces will add to the sense of homecoming. Ajax are now managed by the great defender Ronald Koeman, while the youth team are overseen by one Marco van Basten. These two giants of Dutch football are also two very close friends of Bergkamp's. "I played many times with those guys," says the man who made his European debut with the club at 17, "so it will be great to see them again. It will be difficult for me to switch off and think of them as any other team, but I'm sure I'll manage."

Arsenal's slick passing and movement, not to mention Thierry Henry's goalscoring skills, should be too much for Ajax's young and fast-improving side. In fact, Bergkamp believes the Gunners are one of the favourites for the crown. "I see no reason why we shouldn't go all the way," he says, "but, like any knockout event, this competition requires that little bit of luck. The domestic title is the fairest, because if you're top of the table in May then no one can say that you were fortunate on 38 occasions. But the Champions' League can be decided on a tiny detail, and that's what makes it so unpredictable. That's its beauty."

Bergkamp believes that last season's quarter-final reverse against the eventual finalists, Bayer Leverkusen, is a good example of the better team losing out. "I thought that we played really well against them," he says, "and we should have run out comfortable winners. But somehow we lost and they almost went all the way. It still hurts a bit, but I can tell you that if we reach that stage again, we'll make sure we win."

Bergkamp will return to Ajax with his head held high, if a little sore. Due to his refusal to fly, the Arsenal playmaker will be driving to Holland. "It's not a problem," he insists. "I've done it lots. In fact, the first time I made the journey was the day I signed for Arsenal in June 1995. I remember it well, because I went around the M25 the wrong way and had to stop for petrol. When I pulled into the station, I had a little argument with the driver of the car behind me, who was getting irate. After a while, the guy stepped out of the car. I kid you not, it was Ian Wright. That's when I knew I was meant to join Arsenal."

There have been no such signs in recent weeks, but Bergkamp can still think of one good reason why Arsenal should win the Champions' League this year. "The final is at Old Trafford," he smiles.

Suggested Topics
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living