Forever in our Hearts: Now the Disciple of Beauty is in the Hall of Fame

Denis Bergkamp: 1995-2006.

Denis appeared in 423 games over an 11 year period and scored 120 goals.

Born in Amsterdam, Denis was the fourth of four sons. He was brought up in a working-class suburb; his father who was an electrician played amateur footballer in the lower leagues. He was named in honour of Scottish striker Denis Law but in order to comply with Dutch given name customs, an extra “n” was inserted into his first name, by his father, after it was not accepted by the registrar.

He was spotted by Ajax and was brought up through their famous youth system, joining the club at age 11 and making his professional debut on 14 December 1986. He scored his first senior goal for the club against HFC Haarlem on 22 February 1987 in a match Ajax won 6–0. He went on to make 23 appearances in the 1986–87 season, including a European debut against Malmö FF in the 1986–87 European Cup Winners’ Cup, Ajax won the competition, beating Lokomotive Leipzig 1–0. In later seasons he established himself as a first-team player for Ajax. This culminated in a period of success for the club, which won the Eredivisie title in the 1989–90 season for the first time in five years. Denis scored 29 goals in 36 games the following season and became the joint top goal scorer in the league. Ajax won the 1992 UEFA Cup Final, beating Torino through the away goals ruling. He was the top scorer in the Eredivisie from 1991 to 1993, and was voted Dutch Footballer of the Year in 1992 and 1993. In total, he scored 122 goals in 239 games for his hometown club.

Denis attracted the attention of several European clubs as a result of his performances for Ajax. He was insistent on playing in Italy. as he considered Serie A “the biggest league at the time” and preferred a move to either Juventus or Internazionale, on 16 February 1993, he agreed a £7.1 million move to Internazionale and made his debut against Reggiana on 29 August 1993.  In his first two seasons at Internazionale, the club changed managers twice and Denis had a difficult time, troubled with stress injuries and fatigue from the 1994 World Cup, he only scored five goals in 26 appearances. Off the field, his relationship with the Italian press and fans became uncomfortable. His shy persona and his propensity to go home after matches was interpreted as apathy. Because of his poor performance on the pitch, one Italian publication renamed their award given to the worst performance of the week, L’asino della settimana (Donkey of the Week) to Bergkamp della settimana.

Denis left Internazionale and signed with Arsenal in June 1995 for a transfer fee estimated at £7.5 million. He became manager Bruce Rioch’s first signing at Arsenal and broke the club’s transfer fee record of £2.5 million. On the opening day of the 1995–96 league season, he made his full debut against Middlesbrough. He struggled to adapt to the English game and failed to score in the club’s next six league matches, prompting ridicule by the national press, he ended his first season with 33 appearances and a goal tally of 11.

The appointment of Arsène Wenger as Arsenal manager in September 1996 marked a turning point in his career. Wenger, who had moderate success coaching in France and Japan, recognised his talent and wanted to use him as a fulcrum of the team’s forward play. Both were advocates of a continental style of attacking football, and Denis was happy with Arsene’s decision to impose a strict fitness and health regime. Despite making fewer appearances in the 1996–97 season, he was more influential in the first team, creating 13 assists. The following season he was instrumental in helping Arsenal complete a domestic league and cup double. He became the club’s top scorer with 22 goals and recorded a strike rate of 0.57.  In 1997/8 he was the recipient of the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award, becoming only the second foreign player to be recognised by his fellow professionals as the outstanding performer in English football.

After 3 seasons of finishing second more success finally came in the 2001–02 season. Arsenal regained the league, beating Manchester United at Old Trafford in the penultimate game of the season to complete the club’s second double under Wenger; Arsenal defeated Chelsea 2–0 to win the FA Cup four days prior. Denis played in 33 league matches, setting up 15 goals. After a 3 game red card suspension he made his return against Newcastle United on 3 March 2002. Early in the match, Arsenal midfielder Robert Pirès played a low pass from the left flank to Denis in the edge of the opponent area with his back to goal. Under pressure from his marker Nikos Dabizas, he controlled the ball with one flick and went around the other side before placing the ball precisely into the bottom right-hand corner to score. Arsene described the goal as “unbelievable”, adding “It was not only a magnificent goal but a very important one – I enjoyed it a lot”

Denis reached a personal landmark during the 2002–03 season, scoring his 100th goal for Arsenal against Oxford United in a FA Cup third-round tie. On 20 July 2003, he signed a one-year extension at the club. The 2003–04 season ended on a high point as Arsenal reclaimed the league title, becoming the first English team in more than a century to go through the entire domestic league season unbeaten. He committed himself to Arsenal at the end of the season, signing a further extension to his contract.

See the source image

The team finished fourth in the league in his final season at Arsenal. After much campaigning from Arsenal supporters, the club designated one of its Highbury match day themes, organised to commemorate the stadium’s final season as home of Arsenal, to Dennis Bergkamp. “Bergkamp Day” took place on 15 April 2006 It celebrated his contribution to Arsenal; fans were given commemorative orange ‘DB10’ T-shirts – the colour of his national team, his initials and his squad number. Denis came on as a second-half substitute and set up the winning Pirès goal moments after Nigel Quashie had levelled the score. Fittingly, his 89th-minute goal proved to be his last for Arsenal in competitive football.

He was the focus of the first match at Arsenal’s new ground, the Emirates Stadium. On 22 July 2006, a testimonial was played in his honour at the new stadium as Arsenal played his old club Ajax.

Denis made his international debut for the Netherlands national team against Italy on 26 September 1990. He was selected for Euro 1992, where his national team were the defending champions. Although he impressed, scoring three goals in the tournament, the team lost on penalties to eventual champions Denmark. In the qualification for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, hep scored five goals and was selected for the finals, staged in the United States. He featured in every game for the national team, getting goals against Morocco in the group stages and the Republic of Ireland in the round of 16.

Against Wales in the 1998 FIFA World Cup qualification on 9 November 1996, he scored his first hat-trick for the national team. The Netherlands finished first in their group and qualified for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, held in France. Denis scored three times in the competition, including a memorable winning goal in the final minute of the quarterfinal against Argentina. He took one touch to control a long 60-yard aerial pass from Frank de Boer, brought the ball down through Argentine defender Roberto Ayala’s legs, and finally finished by firing a volley with the outside of his right foot, past the keeper at a tight angle from the right, he described the goal as his personal favourite in his career.  His international career ended with 37 goals in 77 appearances.

In April of 2007, he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame by viewers of BBC’s Football Focus. A year later, he was voted second by Arsenal fans behind Thierry Henry in a list of the 50 Gunners Greatest Players.

This is a summary of his achievements in chronological order:

Dutch Football Talent of the Year (1): 1990

Dutch Footballer of the Year (2): 1991, 1992

Eredivisie Top Scorer (3): 1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93

UEFA European Football Championship Top Scorer (1): 1992

UEFA European Football Championship Team of the Tournament (1): 1992

World’s Top Goal Scorer of the Year (1): 1992

UEFA Cup Top Scorer (1): 1994

Premier League Player of the Month (4): August 1997, September 1997, March 2002, February 2004

PFA Team of the Year (1): 1997–98

FWA Footballer of the Year (1): 1997–98

PFA Players’ Player of the Year (1): 1997–98

Premier League Goal of the Season (2): 1997–98, 2001–02

FIFA World Cup All-Star Team (1): 1998

FIFA 100

English Football Hall of Fame

His statue now stands outside Emirates Stadium honouring him as one of Arsenal’s legends.

GunnerN5

45 thoughts on “Forever in our Hearts: Now the Disciple of Beauty is in the Hall of Fame

  • GN5,

    That is a superb ode to the joined-greatest Gunner imo (the other one being TH14 of course). You have done him proud.

    Cheers!

  • The first touch is peak Olga Korbut, the second, peak Fred Astaire, the third, peak Stephen Hendry. Followed by a circa ’71 Charlie George celebration. THE moment of that world cup.

  • TA, Great post and superb read on a player who epitomizes the reason Football is called ‘The Beautiful Game’. Each of his goal or assist is a master piece. His movements on the pitch was so fluid. His first touch is to die for and a dream for any striker. Thierry benefited from playing with him and made it easier to score goals. What a player and we were lucky to have watched him game after game. Good on you TA for naming your blog to this wonderful player.
    I have his 100 goals CD with me and a very prized possession indeed.

  • Thanks for that GN5,

    Dennis was a bit of a fantasy signing for me, you know the type of player you’d dream about in an Arsenal shirt but the type of player also that Arsenal never signed, so when he arrived it was kinda seismic for us as a club. We just never signed those types of players, they always went to Italy or Spain and if they did come to England it was to Man Utd or Liverpool or even Tottenham.

    After David Dein got Dennis anything was possible and so it was for the next 10 years until Dein was sacked and the club moved to Ashburton Grove.

    We’ve been wistfully thinking about those days ever since.

    It really is something when you’re watching a footballer having a particular season when anything is possible and it was like that for Dennis in 1997-98 – and to a degree for Bobby Pires in 2001-02.

    We were so lucky at the time even if we didn’t realise it to able to witness such genius at work.

    Looking back now I think that Dennis left football a year or two too soon, he really could have carried on at Arsenal, but he was a man who knew his own mind. It’s a shame though because you are a long time retired as a footballer.

  • If I had the technical know how I would put up a range of wonderful Bergkamp images, but sadly I don’t possess that knowledge at the moment. Our daughter is visiting us today (she’s in our bubble) and she a technical whiz and is very proficient on Word Press – I’ll see if she can help her old man!

  • GN5, that was a well put-together composition to the honour of such an Arsenal (nay, football) great. His arrival at Arsenal was epochal and must have been the signal (other than Wenger’s appointment) to other fine, latter day European additions that Arsenal (and England) was a great destination for an enjoyable and successful career adventure.

    Other qualities that fascinated me about Dennis (of course, a lot has been stated already about his other more obvious qualities) are his strength in possession, tenacity in the hunt for the ball and sure rootedness in execution. Let’s take that much viewed goal vs Newcastle. Anyone else notice how he has cleverly stretched out his hand to block off Dabizas to make for an easy pick of his spot? Another Ref May call for a foul today. This, in addition to his apparent mental toughness makes the irony of his fear of flying even more curious.

    On a personal note, I always thought he reminded me of the music artiste, Sting; same facial structure and icy stare.

    He deserves a place in the English football Hall of fame. His presence will only do that group credit.

  • Arteta must be licking his lips about the prospects of involving Willock more, next season. I said it here that he obviously loves the player and is happy that his stint out on loan may have earned him a few more believers,

    However, saying he is our player and will return to us is not the same thing as the owners and Management turning down a good offer for our young player. If the board are happy with what’s on offer, Willock will be sold in a heartbeat.

  • It’s so true that money talks Eris especially with American owners. I’m a big advocate of grooming home grown players and hope that we get to see Willock playing for Arsenal again.

  • Old age is really creeping up on me and leaving my memory behind – it’s so easy to add the images and videos, but at least I finally remembered how it was done without the help of my daughter..

  • GN5, trust me, many even much younger folks cannot do half as well as you do on this blog and (I imagine) other digital age engagements. 👌

  • Thanks for the kind thoughts Eris.

    Sometimes, in the blog world, you think you’re talking to yourself – it’s nice to get an appreciative comment.

    I can’t remember how long I’ve been blogging (in all it’s various forms) but in must be close to thirty years. The common denominator over all those years and multiple different sites was that sooner or later they turned nasty. BK is a rarity and although I’ve only blogged here for just over a year I find it a very pleasant site and well administered by Total.

    Hopefully we will get more folks to join us in the coming seasons – I really believe that Arsenal are on the cusp of becoming a top four team again.

    Tomorrow could well become the latest date for us to celebrate St. Tottingerham’s Day.

  • GN5 I started blogging in 2008, just over 12 years ago and it’s changed so much in that time, so if you’ve been blogging for almost 30 years what on earth did it look like back in1991, serious question?

  • As I remember it Kev in the early days the host would post a comment and readers could add responses but there was no capability of linking comments with others so it was just a mish mash of various comments. The first time I joined a serious blog was around 1995 when I join Team talk but again there was very little direct interaction to start with but it was a great way of reading of teams blogs. Team talk is still a very good site but I left due to a few “misguided bloggers” who preferred to argue with others rather than have a sensible dialogue.

    Initially Mark Holmes was the Arsenal moderator but he to moved on to more senior positions – the Arsenal site then changed – these days I’m just an occasional visitor so I cannot offer any current opinions.

  • Here’s our last team of the season.

    Leno
    Chambers
    Holding
    Gabriel
    Tierney
    Xhaka
    Partey
    Pepe
    Odegaard
    Smith Rowe
    Aubameyang (c)

    Substitutes

    R. Rúnarsson
    Mari
    Cédric Soares
    Elneny
    Ceballos
    Saka
    Martinelli
    Nketiah
    Lacazette

  • No place for Saka and Elneny in the starting line up. Apart from the fact Elneny plays well with Partey, I guess that’s our strongest midfield pairing there. Where Xhaka has licence to take the initiative and go long, Elneny doesn’t have trouble recycling the ball between Partey and himself.

    Saka appears to have gone off the boil lately. Hopefully, he isn’t needed today and can just rest up for the Euros.

    Potter is a good manager and sets up his teams well for encounters as this (they beat City last time out, weakened side or not). Last day of the league season, so attitude and desire will be important.

  • Interesting that Ryan has been left out and Rúnarsson is on the bench. Is Ryan injured?

  • A stupid comment about Ryan. Of course, he can’t play against his parent club!

  • There you go, 0X10.

    Looks like Willock has done it again. Now, holds the record for most consecutive goals in one season by a young player. He can’t stop himself scoring now.

  • The Spuds go on to win it 2-4 at the dead. Shame, there would be no European appearance for the Arsenal next season.

    A subject of debate, so let’s see if those who felt it would do the team good to avoid the distraction of ECL get it right. I am indifferent, except one had gotten used to seeing your side play in every competition, each season. It sure will be strange.

    St. Totteringham’s day is postponed for another season then.

  • We surely can’t sell Willock now, can we? We certainly need more goals although Pepe was good value for his brace today. He was not afraid to do his defensive duties either.

    Gutted to finish below the Spuds but I’m pleased that we are not in the new European competition. Without the midweek distraction we can concentrate on the PL. It will hopefully reduce the amount of injuries too.

  • Pepe one of the bright spots of the season, really becoming difficult to handle for defenders. I’m not sure how I feel about the opinion that it’s good that we’ll be able to focus on the league next season with no Europe, because its harder to lure players to join. .One thing I am sure about..

    Spurs make me sick.

  • We can have no complaints about our final game , we did all we could to grab 7th place but Bale denied us.

  • WHAT’S NEXT

    We now all wait for the fixtures to be released on June 16 at 9am (UK time) to find out who we kick off the 2021/22 season against.

    A couple of pre-season friendlies have already been announced, away to Hibernian on Tuesday, July 13 and then away to Scottish champions Rangers on Monday July 12.

    The Premier League season kicks off on Saturday, August 14.

    Copyright 2021 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the source.

  • Well I enjoyed our win today and the way we finished the season. Two good Pepe goals and a dynamic display by all our midfielders. A clean sheet with solid defending. Auba and Leno were the only ones that did not score more than a six in my book.

    It’s also clear that we could still upgrade on an attacking midfielder next season. I think Ode will grow if we were able to buy him but there are other options out there too.

    Nice to see and hear supporters at the Emirates again.

  • Thanks for the old blog info GN5, I did an IT course before joining my local library back in 2008 and my first foray onto the Arsenal blogging world, and that was on Le Grove which I just read without commenting on, it wasn’t a place for anyone with a faint heart and it still isn’t.

    I am quite relieved that we’ve avoided the Conference even though a part of me wouldn’t have minded us pushing the Middlesex mob out of europe. Long term I think a season without the distraction of a 3rd rate european competition will be beneficial to Arteta, his preparation and coaching and I’m fairly confident that we’ll make a serious push for the top four next season.

    If we don’t then that’s the time to worry!

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