That was the Weekend that was: Bergkamp godfather is Italian connection

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The Independent Online
ARSENAL HAVE turned to the godfather to help ensure that Dennis Bergkamp is with them for their Champions' League date it Italy tomorrow. He is the man the Gunners have hired to transport their pounds 7.5m Dutchman, grounded by a fear of flying, to their opening match against Fiorentina.

So far as is known, however, this particular individual has no connections with the Mafia nor has he made Arsene Wenger an offer he cannot refuse - but as a close friend of the Bergkamps, he happens to be godfather to the Highbury hitman's two children. That is why he has the responsibility for driving Bergkamp on the 1,700-mile roundtrip to Florence, a journey that began early yesterday morning.

"The hope that Dennis will be persuaded to step on an aircraft is over, and we have accepted that," Wenger said, resigning himself to the reality that some overseas ties - last season's critical defeat in Kiev among them - are simply out of Bergkamp's range.

"But, when you have a player like Bergkamp, it is difficult to think about just letting him stay at home when you can get him to a game like this by other means. He will be able to have a good sleep when they stop over somewhere between London and Florence and again after he has joined up with the rest of the squad and done some training.

"I am still worried about the effects of the journey on him. I don't know yet whether I will ask him to play but it will be good to have him available and he is up for the chance."

The Godfather, meanwhile, has been asked to invest in a comprehensive European road atlas - he may later have to take the scenic routes to Barcelona and Stockholm as well.