Dennis Bergkamp is the definition of a TENLEGEND. He was born on 10 May 1969 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. His career began with him playing the role of midfielder, and then migrated into a striker.
Dennis played with his mind, scoring unforgettable goals, and was loyal to the end. His technique and class were one of a kind.
Thierry Henry named Dennis Bergkamp the greatest player he has ever played with. The former France, Arsenal and Barcelona star had was given a list of ex-teammates, and when asked to name the most talented, he chose Bergkamp. “Because of longevity, and because I saw him every day in training for seven years, Dennis Bergkamp,”
Henry revealed. “Because he was always doing what the game was asking him to do.” They played together for Arsenal between 1999, when Henry joined from Juventus, and Bergkamp’s retirement in 2006.
Bergkamp was brought to Arsenal by Bruce Rioch, often mistaken for a Wenger signing. It took him seven games until he got his debut goal against Southampton. His arrival was the impetus Arsenal needed to get out of the mid-table abyss, and helped make them into Premiership and European contenders. At the peak of his ability in Arsene Wenger’s reign, Dennis was key to win a Premiership and FA Cup double in the 1997-98 season. He was also voted PFA Player of the Year in September 1997.
Between those Euros in England and the World Cup two years later, Bergkamp won the first of three league titles and six major trophies with Arsenal.
In France during the 98 World Cup, he scored one of the most memorable goals ever. Controlling Frank de Boer’s lofted pass on his right foot, Bergkamp stepped inside Argentina’s Roberto Ayala to score the winner past Roa in the last minute of a quarter-final. The orange sea sweltering inside the Stade Velodrome in Marseille burst into a crescendo of noise as Bergkamp lay with arms outstretched on the ground.
His wife Henrita, pregnant with their son, Mitchel at the time, was among the crowd. Dennis played in a position that has become a dying breed. “It’s very difficult to find a No 10 who would play off a striker,” he says. “It’s always two strikers, or one who’s more a midfield player. I was always called a nine and a half, playing between the No 9 and the No 10. I guess that’s football developing. I was an attacking midfielder but on paper I was a striker with Thierry Henry.”
“When I scored the goal against Argentina, the next day I was with my wife in the pool in a villa we rented for my family,” Bergkamp recalls. “It was very peaceful after the hectic day before, scoring quite a special goal, and it always stuck in my mind. Mitchel wasn’t born yet, but he was there in a way watching the goal from the stands. It was a special period as a footballer and my family and the arrival of our boy too.”
He was selected by Pelé as one of the FIFA 125 greatest living players. In 2007, he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame, the first ever Dutch player to receive the honor. He has also finished third in the FIFA Player of the Year award twice.
Arsène Wenger said about him after Arsenal’s 3-1 win over West Bromwich Albion (April 16, 2006), that Bergkamp had, “Intelligence and class. Class is of course, most of the time linked to what you can do with the ball, but the intelligence makes you use the technique in an efficient way. It’s like somebody who has a big vocabulary but he doesn’t say intelligent words, and somebody who has a big vocabulary but he can talk intelligently, and that’s what Dennis is all about. What he does, there’s always a head and always a brain. And his technique allows him to do what he sees, and what he decides to do.”
Bergkamp continued with his consistent performances as he won the double again in 2002, the FA Cup in 2003, and the Premiership for a third time in 2004.
During his lap of honor at the Emirates in July 2006 as Arsenal fans bid farewell to one of the club’s greatest players, he commented “It was a very special moment walking on that pitch with him (his son),” says Bergkamp Sr. “It’s like when you get married — you go through the day and don’t realize what’s happening until afterwards when you look at pictures and videos and the comments people make who experienced it. I come across that picture a lot.”
Bergkamp had a severe fear of flying. In his 2013 autobiography, Bergkamp stated that his phobia was in fact caused during his first season at Inter Milan, in which the team regularly traveled to away games in small airplanes. Bergkamp, however, did make appearances in Europe despite vowing to never fly again – although these appearances were limited to destinations easily accessible by road or rail. The 51-year-old has ruled out a move into management as a result of this, however, he did have a short stint as Ajax’s assistant coach.
Join us in celebrating Dennis Bergkamp and his contribution to the beautiful game.
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