Unravelling the enigma that is Dennis Bergkamp
Revered in the Netherlands, a flop in Italy. What sort of player will Arsenal get for their pounds 7.5m, asks David Winner
Wednesday 21 June 1995
Leo Driessen, a Dutch radio commentator, said: "If you compare England and Italy, you are comparing heaven and hell. Even if Arsenal is a defensive team by English standards, they attack more than any team in Italy. English football will show him more respect than he had in Italy. If he is allowed to play his way, he can be great again."
Jaap de Groot of De Telegraaf was one of many surprised by Bergkamp's decision to join Arsenal when signing for his hero, Glenn Hoddle, and joining Ruud Gullit at Chelsea seemed a more obvious way to rebuild his career.
"Dennis is a very intelligent man and he knows exactly what went wrong in Italy. He will not allow the Inter situation to repeat itself," he said. "The basic qualities are still there. But Inter showed that he is very sensitive to the situation around him. I think his experience has made him tougher."
Few doubt that as a footballer Bergkamp has the class to rise again, but Ron Westerhof of Voetbal International doubts he has the mental strength to fulfil his potential. "I don't think he will succeed in England. Of course he is still one of the best players in the world, but he's weak mentally. He's not a winner. He's a loser. He's a cissy.
"Look at the way he allowed Ruben Sosa, who is an inferior player, be the boss at Inter. Berg-kamp's free-kicks and penalties are famous in the Netherlands. His problems are between his ears. A lot depends on Bruce Rioch, but if you want the best from Bergkamp, you have to build a team around him and play in an intelligent, attacking way. I don't know if Arsenal can do this."
Bergkamp was one of the most brilliant of all graduates of the famous Ajax youth system, playing briefly in the under-15 team with winger Glenn Helder, now at Arsenal. Bergkamp emerged as a 17-year-old in the 1987- 88 season and soon became the most exciting player in the Netherlands.
In 1992-93, Bergkamp's last season before moving to Italy, he took the role of a shadow striker, playing behind a centre forward in a team dedicated to perpetual attack. The move was a success and he scored 28 goals.
With his exquisite technique, elegantly lethal finishing and searing pace, the pale Dutchman seemed ready to follow in the footsteps of Marco Van Basten and fulfil former coach Johan Cruyff's prediction that he could become one of the world's greatest players.
Cruyff wanted him for Barcelona, but Bergkamp opted for Internazionale, lured partly by the false promise that Inter would ditch its notorious defensive traditions and play Dutch-style attacking football.
Instead, it was Bergkamp who found himself playing an alien style, usually as a lone attacker. In his first season, the gloom of poor league form was alleviated by his goals, which helped Inter win the Uefa Cup.
But last season's campaign was much worse. Troubled by stress injuries caused by not being given enough time to recover after the World Cup, when he did play he was a shadow of himself. Drained of confidence, he scored only two goals all season.
Things were even worse off the field. Bergkamp is naturally shy and prefers to go home after matches and spend time with his girlfriend, which was interpreted as aloofness or weakness. By the end of the season, the club, the press and the fans had all turned against him.
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
Latest in Sport
Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: Best memes as Twitter reacts to imminent £16m transfer
Manchester United transfer news: Louis van Gaal joins Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for Sami Khedira
Mario Balotelli takes 50 per cent pay cut to join Liverpool as Samuel as Eto’o waits in the wings if deal falls through
Crystal Palace next manager latest: Palace consider Ally McCoist - EXCLUSIVE
Click here for the full story." title="When a youngster asked for an autograph outside Manchester City's training ground, Balotelli demanded to know why the boy was playing truant. After the child revealed he was being bullied, Balotelli drove the boy and his mother to the school in question so he could tackle the bully himself. He demanded to see the headmaster to make him aware of the issue and then mediated between the two boys to resolve the problem. A source said: 'Mario feels strongly about bullying.' Click here for the full story." width="88" height="52" />Mario Balotelli: The funniest stories
- 1 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 2 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for pageant
- 3 Crystal Palace next manager latest: Palace consider Ally McCoist - EXCLUSIVE
- 4 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 5 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Market Administrator (1st line Support, Trade Fl...
£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Data Support Analyst (Linux, Solaris, Windows Se...
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Helpdesk Support Engineer (Windows, MS Office, E...