On this day 26 years, Arsenal unveiled their record signing Dennis Bergkamp – and after making his impact as a player, the Dutchman is keen to help the club off the pitch
There are not many times where Arsene Wenger was not involved in a signing of a Premier League player for Arsenal. But on this day in 1995, Dennis Bergkamp was unveiled as the first signing of the Bruce Rioch’s era at the club.
Even if Bergkamp was not a member of the group of players signed by Wenger, he happily bought in to the Frenchman’s idea of free-flowing, attacking football.
In modern day football, Bergkamp’s fear of flying could be one of dozens of characteristics that scouts would point out as a red flag in their analysis and perhaps it would make a club think twice about signing him.
Arsenal fans, however, will be glad that their club did not waver in their interest when it came to acquiring Bergkamp.
To pay £7.5million for the Dutch forward, a record amount for the north London club at the time, was a big risk.
Especially when considering his time at Inter Milan had largely been a huge disappointment.
Former Inter president Massimo Moratti had infamously predicted Bergkamp would be “lucky to score double figures in his first season” for Rioch after struggling to replicate the same goalscoring form he had shown for Ajax.
Of course, there was a settling in period where the striker failed to score in his first six games and with a big reputation and hefty price tag, the press piled the pressure on Bergkamp.
He would eventually break his duck and began to contribute more to goals as he integrated into the Gunners side.
It was a close-run thing and Moratti was nearly proved right: Bergkamp managed 11 in the Premier League and 16 in all competitions.
But to limit his contributions to goals and assists does a huge disservice to this magnificent player.
It was Wenger’s appointment which proved to be the catalyst in propelling Arsenal to the forefront of English football — and with it, Bergkamp’s class shone through.
Would you like to see Dennis Bergkamp return to Arsenal if Daniel Ek takes control of the club? Let us know in the comments below.
He embraced his role as the team’s star name, not only scoring a large portion of their goals but creating them too. Arsenal had found a genuine No. 10 and with Wenger at the helm, they became a team to be feared.
On the back of the 1998 World Cup, Wenger assembled a team capable of challenging for honours, with David Seaman, Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira and Bergkamp at the forefront.
It was the latter who found form in front of goal with 22 goals in all competitions as Arsenal clinched a Premier League and FA Cup double, knocking Manchester United off the top of English football.
His partnership with Ian Wright was devastating at times and the pair would strike fear into the minds of the opposition defenders every time they took to the pitch.
A combination of injuries and the emergence of Thierry Henry limited his influence after the turn of the Millennium, yet it was back in 2002 where he produced one of the finest pieces of technique that has ever been seen in the game.
The Gunners knew they had to win against their title rivals Newcastle and they opened the lead in emphatic style. It was Robert Pires who spotted the run of Bergkamp to the edge of the box but it was a phenomenal piece of skill that saw Arsenal take the lead.
There was no obvious way past Nikos Dabizas until Bergkamp took the bouncing ball with the grace of a Julliard ballet student, lifted it with a no-look touch and nonchalantly slotted beyond the goalkeeper.
The goal was voted the best Premier League goal of all-time in a public vote in 2017 and there cannot be many arguments about it. It was a strike that perfectly summarised his quality and ability to conjure a chance out of absolutely nothing.
Needless to say, Bergkamp was a key cog in the attacking department as Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ finished the 2003-04 season unbeaten, a remarkable achievement that may never be repeated.
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What would have capped his 11-year stint in England perfectly would have been if he managed to guide Arsenal to glory in the Champions League. Alas, Barcelona had other plans, winning 2-1 in the final in 2006.
That was Bergkamp’s last game in an Arsenal shirt as he hung up his boots in the summer, but his time at the club will forever be etched into the memories of Arsenal fans.
He has spent the majority of his post-playing career in his native Netherlands, working first as an assistant for Ajax and then in a more senior capacity as a director of football.
But his love for Arsenal has never died. In fact, in the wake of Daniel Ek’s interest in taking over the club, it is Bergkamp who has been a positive advocate for the Swedish billionaire, who founded Spotify.
He has played an active role, acting as an intermediary between the Kroenkes and Ek’s camp, in trying to restart talks after two failed bids.
His comments about the club’s demise have resonated with the supporters and there have been calls to install Bergkamp as a board member, regardless of whether Ek is successful in his bid.
“I sense resignation about the current situation,” Bergkamp said.
“That is serious. As if, given the financial situation, it is normal for Arsenal to end in the middle bracket. That does not belong to this club. Arsenal’s DNA must be restored.
“You have to start at the top. That’s why an acquisition is crucial. So that Arsenal can continue with an owner who understands that a football club should not be run like a company.
“No matter how much money is involved in English football, Arsenal is and will remain a football club. Which must also be managed as such, in all layers of the club.
“We can’t force anyone to sell. I understand that, in addition to that offer, Daniel has now reached out twice to Josh Kroenke and his bankers.
“Whatever Kroenke’s intentions are, it would be good if we at least have a conversation with each other. In the interest of the club.
After two consecutive eighth-place finishes, Arsenal are desperate to get back to where they once were.
Bergkamp may not be able to do the job on the pitch any more, but the 52-year-old remains as passionate as ever in doing all he can to try and change their fortunes.