Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dennis Bergkamp

World Famous People

Dennis Bergkamp

Dennis Bergkamp was born in Amsterdam on May, 1969. He was named after the famous Manchester United's player Denis Law but there had to add one more 'n' because "Denis" reminds too much "Denise" in the Netherlands. Dennis drilled the ball hour after hour against the garden wall at his family home at a young age or dribbled around his three elder brothers who were also all football fanatics. For years, his parents took him and his brothers to England on holiday and his love for English developed during his childhood years. His family were Manchester United fans, but Dennis admired Glenn Hoddle of Spurs the most. Bergkamp said:

Maybe I was...maybe I am, a little different from other players. They will tell you that Pele, Maradona, Cruyff are their idols and I will say Glenn Hoddle. Main thing was that I was a big fan of Glenn Hoddle. When you wanted to see Hoddle play you watched Tottenham. People often assume I'm a Spurs fan but it's not true. I was a fan of Glenn Hoddle, not of Spurs.

Bergkamp is another product of the Ajax youth system. He joined the Ajax youth team when he was 12. Dennis explained:

The normal things for professional players now, I already did when I was 12 years old. I didn't have time to go out. If we had game on Saturday, I would stay in on Friday night. I didn't smoke, I didn't drink. I stayed in on Saturday nights and Sunday to do my homework so I could train two or three times a week.

But even the hard work was not enough to please the couches at Ajax, they thought young Bergkamp was too lightweight and not physically strong enough to be a football player. For years, he struggled in the youth team.

After Dennis played few years with the Ajax youth, Johan Cruyff discovered Bergkamp's talent and took him away from the junior-team and asked him to play with the first team. His first league game was in 14th of December in 1986 against Roda JC Kerkade and few months later he made his European debut in the Cup Winners Cup against Malmö FF. In that year he made four goals in the CWC and Ajax won the Cup. In 1990 he won the Championship medal with Ajax and in 1993 the Dutch Cup. He also became an international in the Dutch squad. His international debut was in 1990 against Italy and two months later he scored his first goal for his country against Greece. He was a regular ever since until he retired at international level after Euro 2000. In 1992, the Netherlands went to Sweden as a favourite to win the European Championship. Bergkamp played alongside with his superstar teammates such as Gullit, van Basten, Rijkaard, and Koeman. Dennis played well and scored three goals (top scorer in the tournament with Larsen, Riedle and Brolin) before the Netherlands lost to Denmark in penalty shootout in the semi-finals.

With Ajax Bergkamp won his second European Cup, the UEFA Cup in 1992. He was three times Dutch topscorer (1991, -92, -93) and was voted twice 'Football Player of the Year' by his Dutch collegues (1992 and -93). In Ajax Dennis played right behind the strikers, position what was later taken by another top player, Finnish Jari Litmanen. In the Dutch league Dennis played 185 games and scored 103 goals. Altogether, Bergkamp played 239 games for Ajax and scored 122 goals.

After this great year Bergkamp and his teammate Wim Jonk were sold to Inter of Italy. That was the effect of his excellent performance in Euro 1992. Johan Cruyff disapproved it because he felt that Bergkamp would not play well in the defensive style of Inter. But Bergkamp wanted a challenge and he chose Inter over clubs like AC Milan and Barcelona, where football was played more similar to the attacking Ajax system. Again he played in UEFA Cup final and won it, now with Inter. He stayed in Italy for two seasons, but as Cruyff predicted, Dennis had a difficult time in Milano. The club promised a change of playing style but it didn't happen. Moreover, Bergkamp's releationship with his teammates was not so good. For an example, one of his teammates in Inter, the Uruguayan striker Ruben Sosa treated him more as a rival than a colleague. Dennis also could't go down well with the quite-hungry Italian press; When he wouldn't talk to them, they talked to his gardener who told them that one of Italy's most highly paid footballers liked to stay at home with his wife. Bergkamp received much criticism in Milan. During this unhappy time, he still played well for the Netherlands played an important part in Netherlands' 1994 World Cup campaign, playing every game in the finals. The Dutchmaster scored three goals in five World Cup matches.

After the World Cup, Bergkamp returned to Milan for one more year. At the end of the 1994/95 season, he realized that things will not change at Inter. Having opted to leave, Bergkamp's decision to join Arsenal was made quickly.

I wanted to go to England and as soon as I heard the name Arsenal. I thought of London. I thought of the club, a very successful club.

On the 20th of June 1995, Dennis became Arsenal's record purchase for £7.5m.

I signed when Bruce Rioch was Arsenal manager and he began building a new style of play, but it was really when Arsene Wenger arrived that I felt a new era building at the club,

Dennis talked about his two managers. When asked about his time in Serie A, Dennis refused to look back on that time as a failure.

I don't think so. Of course I couldn't bring the football I am bringing now or I brought at Ajax, but as a player I think I learnt a lot. I think I wouldn't have been the footballer I am now if I didn't go there.

At this time, Dennis took a decision to never fly again.

A lot of people think that I've never flown but that's not true. I have flown before and just suddenly decided not to do it again. Nothing happened to cause me to make that decision. I had just come to realise that flying was affecting me a lot and affecting my game. In the days leading up to the game I was worrying about the flight and then during the game I would be worrying about the flight back. That was no good for me or the team. To me there is no problem. In deciding not to fly again I've made a solution to a problem. I felt free again after I'd made that decision and I believe it's not a coincidence that I've played the best football of my career at Arsenal, since I made that decision. Okay, so sometimes I miss a few games but then I could be missing games through suspension or injury,

Dennis said. Now he could play matches in foreign countries only if they could be reached by car, train or boat. That's why one of his nicknames is "The Non-Flying Dutchman".

His move to Arsenal was one of the biggest and most talked about transfers to the Premiership. Therefore, when he didn't score at the start of the season, he was higly criticised. Massimo Moratti, the president of Inter, said:

Arsenal will be lucky if Bergkamp scores 10 goals this season.

Dennis scored 16 times that season. Others said Bergkamp was not aggressive enough. Those criticism were actually quite unfair. As Ruud Gullit pointed out, Bergkamp is neither a target man or creative midfield. His strength is to be in the right place at the right time. He would create more goals than he would score. Statistic also showed that Bergkamp was involved in 75% of the Arsenal's goals at the beginning of the season. Finally, in his 8th Premier League game, he silenced the critics with two stunning goals, his first two for Arsenal.

I didn't exactly hit the ground running in England and it took me a while to get going. There was a lot of pressure on me and I remember the newspapers running 'Bergkamp Watch' features, asking how many hours it would take me to score. In the end, I scored against Southampton and I remember running away from the goal with all the pressure coming off my shoulders,

Dennis said. He adapted well into the team and got support from his new teammates. He and his striker partner Ian Wright formed a strong attack combination in the league. The two also became very good friends off the field. Overall, Bergkamp had a good first season with Arsenal.
The Arsenal history

Dennis Bergkamp played his best football in the 1997/98 season. The 29-year-old (at the moment) Dutchman became the most dominating player in English Premier League. He led Arsenal into the Premier League champions and the FA Cup winners, although Bergkamp was injured during the last few games, including the cup final on Wembley. He made a sensational start for the Gunners as they mounted an impressive challenge to Manchester United's supremacy in the title race.

Dennis got many awards along the way to the double: He was voted 'Player Of The Year' by his collegues, the biggest personal award a player can get in the UK. He also ended third in the voting for 'FIFA player of the year'. In September, Dennis was named player of the month for the second time, the first player to win the award in consecutive months. Before that, BBC's Match of the Day programme had voted his strikes first, second and third in their goal of the month, a feat unaqualled by any other player in the 25-year history of the competition.

During the first half of the 1997/98 season, I played what must be the best football of my career. Everything I was trying seemed to work, my body felt fine and everything went for me. I was on form and it was a great feeling.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger agreed he was simply the best:

He scores his goals from outside the penalty box like a midfielder, and also he needs fewer touches on the ball to score. Sometimes just one, when others need two or three. He is the peak of his career and I don't think there's anybody better in the world.

But by the winter, thanks to a series of suspensions and a foot injury, the spark had gone, despite his third place in the FIFA 1997 World Player of the Year awards, having earlier been named fourth-best European. Some over-exaggerated diving and a petulant elbow that saw him sent off in March did little for his standing and earned him a second three-match ban just as Arsenal were finding their form. Bergkamp himself has repeatedly claimed he is being targeted by referees and defenders in England.

Nonetheless in spring he returned to his most bewitching form to help the Gunners overhaul United in the Premier League title run-in. He ended the 1997/98 season as he started - in fantastic form.

He was very happy since he went to play in the Premiership after playing in the Netherlands and Italy.

England is a country where they play attacking football and people want to see that rather than games that end in a draw. You get space and that suits my game and I am very pleased with the way things are going. I am thinking of finishing my career in England. It suits my game and I feel fine. I am not thinking of playing in any other country or for any other team at the moment.

Then there was the World Cup in France. At the beginning of the tournament Dennis had a knee injury but he got over it and got back his good form. Bergkamp scored three important goals against South Korea, Yuogoslavia and Argentina and also assisted three goals.

We went out to Brazil again, this time in the semi finals, and that was a little bitter. But I feel it was a wonderful experience for me and of course I scored that goal against Argentina,

Bergkamp commented on his amazing goal. Sharp and clever Bergkamp showed that the success in Arsenal wasn't luck. Because in France there wasn't very long distances between the venues of the matches Dennis didn't even suffer his fear of flying. Now there was no doubt that he was a world class goalscorer.

The following season at Arsenal wasn't so great. At the beginning of the season Bergkamp was most of the time injured and suffered badly from the demands of the World Cup finals during the previous summer. A subsequent back injury caused him to miss a number of matches during the first half of the campaign. But once he returned to full fitness, he struck up a good understanding with his main strike-partner Nicolas Anelka and his precision passing created a number of goals for other team mates as well. When Bergkamp found his best form again, Arsenal caught up Man United and there was a superb title race again, like in the double season.

After losing the FA Cup semi-final to Man Utd the Dutch striker was devastated after missing the last-minute penalty that would have secured a Wembley place for the current Cup holders and could not bring himself to talk about the miss. But Peter Schmeichel's brilliant save acted as an inspiration for United who won the epic semi-final replay with a sensational individual goal from Ryan Giggs in extra time.

If I had scored that, Manchester United would not have gone to Wembley for the FA Cup Final and so could not have won the treble. Maybe they would have won nothing - who knows?

Then missing the last few games because of injury, the Dutchman returned at the crucial moment and produced two wonderful goal-making passes against Tottenham. Bergy was in a different class to any Spurs outfield player and, indeed, to most of his own team-mates. Well-deserved, he was chosen as Man of the Match. But bitterly, in the next match Jimmy Hasselbaink scored the winner to Leeds - One-nil. Because of Man Utd's draw with Blackburn the title was out of Arsenal's hands, but The Gunners fighted a win from Aston Villa. Now United had to draw, but Spurs couldn't stop them: 2-1 to United. No glory, but a memorable season for ever.

The 1999-2000 season was just very frustrating. We went out of the Champions' League at the first stage after losing to Fiorentina. We missed a penalty in a crucial match in that competition and then ended up going out of the FA Cup, Worthington Cup and losing the UEFA Cup Final through penalty shoot-outs,

Dennis sealed up the next season.

Before Euro 2000, Bergkamp said that he would retire at international level after this home tournament. So this was his last chance to win something with the Netherlands. "Oranje" looked a bit uncertain at the group stage but still won the "group of death". All seemed to go well after the 6-1 - demolition over Yugoslavia. In the semi-finals the opponent was very defensive Italy, and despite the Netherlands' total possession the game ended goalless even after extra-time. Italy won the penalty shoot-out and reached the final, leaving the Netherlands crying for the five missed penalties. Bergkamp didn't score any goals during the tournament but, again, showed his incerdible insights and passed many goals. Too bad that his great era with the Oranges didn't end like it should have.

Bergkamp released a statement after the tournament:

After last night's bitter disappointment, I've decided to hang up my international boots. I'm pretty tired of the relentless flow of games to be honest. With all the domestic competitions we play and the challenge of the Champions' League football I have enough games to play, enough travelling to do. I want to spend more time with my family, but you never know what the future might hold. If I get the itch to come back at any time in the next few months, I'll let the new coach know.

That itch never came.

So how do I sum up Euro 2000? I really am lost for words. It's been a pretty rough ending to the tournament for us and I'm not able to give any proper assessment of it at all. So many parts of Euro 2000 were enjoyable and I think we could have done so much better as a team. It's a puzzle that we couldn't fulfil that promise. Frank Rijkaard quitting is very sad, but it's very hard to know what to say about it because we're all feeling so empty.

Off the Pitch

Dennis is totally different off the pitch, once people know him.

I think I'm quite emotional. What I don't show on the pitch when I score a goal. I'm a different person in private.

Bergkamp's inner feelings are clearly something for his wife, Henrita, and his three childs, Estelle, Mitchel and Yasmin, alone. Dennis first met Henrita in Spain when he was 21. A few years later, they got married and their first child, Estelle, was born when Dennis was 26. He became a father for the second time in September 1998 when Henrita got a boy, Mitchel, and the second girl, Yasmin, was born in April 2002. While Bergkamp was still a professional footballer he demured at the suggestion that his profession was a main topic of conversation round the dinner table.

The other things in life are very important to me as well, so we talk more about them than about football. i.e. family matters and my hobbies such as tennis and golf.

Dennis has three brothers who have all played Dutch amateur soccer.

Bergkamp was in front of a new situation before the 2000/01 season - no more international games with the Netherlands to come. He looked a bit uncertain at the start of the season but still showed he hasn't lost his abilities, scoring two goals against Ipswich and Manchester City. In autumn Dennis was also seen as a right midfielder, a position to which he adapted very quickly. His high-class performance against Lazio in the Champions League at this new position, for example, will be remembered. At the time of Christmas there was plenty of rumours surrounding Dennis and his contract running out at the end of the season. Among other clubs Newcastle was eager to sign DB, but as expected, Dennis renewed his contract with Arsenal for further two years.

At the end of March Bergkamp suffered an Achilles injury which kept him out of the field for nine games. He made his return in the sad and bitter FA Cup final against Liverpool. So not the best of seasons for Bergkamp in the red & white shirt, but surely he would be back even stronger for the next season. Dennis said after the season:

I think despite the low points, we've progressed so much this term and I'm encouraged for our chances next time around. Reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League was a major improvement on recent European campaigns and we were about eight minutes away from winning the FA Cup. Although we finished a way off Manchester United in the Premiership, to finish second in the Premiership, while disappointing, is not a disaster." So for next time, we just need to continue our improvements and get a little more luck. It will be fascinating to see what happens next year with it being Sir Alex Ferguson's last season at Old Trafford.

The 2001/02 season wasn't Ferguson's last year, but surely Arsenal improved and had a bit more luck. Arsenal won their third Double - second during Bergkamp's time at the Gunners - and made a few new unbelievable records on the way to the top of the League. Not a single away defeat on the whole season, a goal scored in every match, 13 consecutive wins at the end of the season. And like in -98, Bergkamp had a major role on the road towards the historical Double.

Bergkamp stared his season as a substitute but still managed to score four times during Autumn, double strike against Middlesbrough and one against Fulham and Blackburn each. Still he was often on the bench and there was even some rumours about Dennis leaving Arsenal after the season.

According to reports in some quarters, I'm on the verge of quitting Arsenal. Rubbish. I'm perfectly happy at Highbury and there is no problem between me and Arsene Wenger at all,

Bergkamp stated in the middle of October. Soon after Christmas Bergkamp got his chance and after that he was on fire.

Bergkamp started to look like the good old Dennis, as classy as in the previous Double season. Numerous key passes, several crucial goals and two times Arsenal's player of the Month. In one week at the end of February Bergkamp scored two wonder goals: at first his magical chip sank Leverkusen in the Champions League and a few days later he scored even more superb goal to the Newcastle net. After ten minutes of play Robert Pires flew towards goal and curled a pass to Bergkamp with his back-to-goal. Simply controlling it with Nikos Dabizas paying close attention seemed tough, yet the Dutchman flicked the ball to his right, turned to his right and with the defender beaten, slotted coolly into the bottom corner. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger purred:

It was a real Dennis Bergkamp goal - he only scores great goals. If anybody wished to make a collection of great goals, that would be very high up.

One of the all time finest Bergkamp goals had seen the daylight. After this wonder goal against title rivals Newcastle, Bergkamp found himself as one of the pivotal figures in Wenger's assault on trophies.

A few weeks later, Bergkamp was - again - the star of the show against Newcastle in the FA Cup quarter final replay. The Iceman scored one and assisted two in the 3-0 win and he was determinedly leading Arsenal towards another double. He continued his brilliant form the whole month and got the Barclaycard Player of the Month award for March. He had a fantastic month and helped to take the Gunners to the top of the Premiership, so the trophy was more than well-deserved. April was as good month for Bergkamp and Arsenal as the previous one and soon the Gunners won the FA Cup in the start of May. Only three days later the title was won with a one-nil victory over bitter rivals Man Utd - at Old Trafford! Bergkamp couldn't play due to a heel injury but still he enjoyed it more than ever:

What can I say about last night? All I can say is that I've never, ever been this happy in my entire career. Look at the respect the Arsenal Double winners of 1971 and 1998 get. They're quite rightly legends in the game. To that we can now add the Double winners of 2002. This is my second Double - I'm absolutely ecstatic. I couldn't be more happy than I am today. I'm already looking forward to next season. Make no mistake, this is just the start of something very big in English football. The power has begun to tilt to us, now we want to keep it and go on to dominate English and European football.

Bergkamp played in 46 matches, scored 14 goals and gave numerous superb goal assists. This 33-year-old Dutch Destroyer showed that 'the Bergkamp Wonderland' still existed.

Arsenal and Bergkamp started the 2002/03 -season in great form: despite a few minor injuries Bergkamp orchestrated the Gunners' best moves and the team was flying high. In September Dennis praised the team:

You never know how long you can keep a unique team like this together. It is the best I've played in, and we've proved that with the way we started this season.

But soon four 2-1 -defeats in a row gave someting to think about. In the start of the season Arsenal played perhaps the best football ever seen at Highbury, but after these defeats the spark had gone - that "something" was missing. Still Arsenal was going towards glory in all three competitions.

Bergkamp hit the 100th goal of his Arsenal career in the FA Cup third round tie with Oxford United at Highbury in January. 15 minutes into the clash, the Dutch Master picked up on a Francis Jeffers pass and stroked the ball past Andy Woodman - to rapturous applause from the Highbury crowd. Manager Wenger praised the man after the match:

Dennis has made an immense contribution to the club, not only as a great player but also as a great example and he's shown that again. I can't believe how quickly he has scored his 100 goals as all of his goals have been sensational. The fact that he's scored his 100th goal in this game shows just how professional he is. He doesn't just save his goals for the bigger games.

Bergkamp himself commented:

It was a very special moment for me to score my 100th goal for Arsenal, it was historical for both me and the club. It doesn't matter who the goal came against, it's 100 goals in all competitions and it's a very proud moment for me in my career.

Just a month later Bergkamp started the match against Liverpool (2-2) and reached 300 games for the club.

In the start of March the gap between Arsenal and Man Utd was eight points, despite the fact that at the same time Bergkamp was playing his worst football so far this season. Later, United caught up the Gunners and Arsenal's draw against Bolton and a bitter defeat against Leeds weren't enough to keep the title in North London. Happily, Bergkamp showed again his exquisite passes in the last game of the season, one-nil victory over Southampton in Cardiff. He almost even scored a few times, but it was Robert Pires who scored the match-winner. At least one trophy for the Gunners this year - FA Cup winners 2003!

Next season, 2003-04, was supposed to be the Iceman's last one and even 66% of this site's visitors thought so in July's poll. Fortunately this wasn't the case and Bergkamp signed a new one-year contract just before the last match of the season. After completing the new deal, he said:

I am so pleased that I will be at Arsenal for another year. Next season will be my 10th with the Club, and that just shows what Arsenal means to me. We have a great squad and team spirit at the Club, which we have proved by winning the Premiership this year. I hope I will be part of another successful campaign for Arsenal next season.

Manager Arsène Wenger - once again - praised the Dutch master:

We are delighted that Dennis is staying with us for another season. He has once again showed throughout this year what an important part of our squad he is. Dennis is a great professional and I know his experience and natural ability will continue to help us greatly next season.

Before this at the start of the season, it took a few months from Dennis to get back on form after some minor injuries. But he proved his place was still on the top level with the sharp and precise passes we have witnessed in the last nine years. In November Bergkamp scored his first of the five goals this season against Birmingham, with captain's armband. He also commented his possible retirement after the match:

I will have a difficult decision in May. How we do in Europe will not affect my decision over retirement, as I would not want to continue just because I wanted another crack at European glory. The only thing that would make me think again about retiring is if I am still enjoying my football. This is the main thing.

Bergkamp kept frequently tormenting opposite's defences, thought there were some poor performances, too. In January Arsenal introduced their new signing, forward Jose Antonio Reyes. The young Spaniard was still adapting to the English football and didn't affect so much on Bergkamp's minutes on the field.

Dennis played better and better towards the spring and glory. After excellent performances against Chelsea (two times), Celta Vigo and Bolton, Thierry Henry praised his team-mate in March:

I've played with so many players. He does not do tricks like Zinedine Zidane but I don't know if any other player can see the game as well and as fast as he does. Everyone who has played with Dennis will tell you how great he is.

Arsenal clinched the title at the White Hart Lane - the sweetest of venues for a title triumph following a 2-2 draw against north London rivals Tottenham. Bergkamp started the match and was involved in both goals, a great performance by the Dutch Master. Despite the draw the real victory, however, was Arsenal's. The title was theirs and the honour of an historic unbeaten league campaign may yet follow. Arsene Wenger summed up the season:

We wanted to win and win with style. I think we achieved that this season and we are proud of it. I would like to congratulate my players and staff for their attitude and the consistency they have shown. It must have been good for the fans to see us repeat what happened in 1971 when we also won the title at Tottenham.

After Bergkamp's new contract deal, Arsenal ensured their historical unbeatable league season with 2-1 win over Leicester at Highbury. Bergkamp started the match and showed a perfect example of why the he would be at Highbury also next season. In the second half Dennis, who has just earned a final one-year contract, bided his time before picking out the surging run of Vieira with an exquisite through-ball. It was 2-1, and the celebrations could begin. After the match, when asked which of his title triumphs with Arsenal he had enjoyed the most, Bergkamp said:

The last one is always the best one so this is definitely the best because we are unbeaten this season.

On his wonderfully incisive through-ball for Vieira's winning goal the Dutchman said:

I think we needed something a little bit special because we were down in the first half but there is so much talent in this team, we know each other well. It is going to be difficult (to get better) but we will try.

Almost everyone thought that the 2004/05 season would be Bergkamp's last one - but once again he, deservedly, got a one-year-extension until the end of 2005/06 season.

The season itself was a bit discrepant for Dennis: the passes and vision he showed proved that he can still play at the top level, but he didn't have the time and space against tougher opponents which he had against weaker teams in the Premier League. Bergkamp was often restrained and couldn't use his creativity to rip apart the opponents' defences. Still, he played a good season.

Bergkamp managed to score in the first league match of the season against Everton and the great form continued through the fall. We all remember, among other matches, the one when the Dutch captain inspired Arsenal to a marvellous bounce-back to beat Boro 5-3 and Dennis scoring once. Arsenal also set the new record for consecutive unbeatable matches in the league - 49!

However, the wintertime wasn't so rosy and Bergkamp suffered a few minor injuries. Arsenal played well but unsteady performances weren't enough to stop Chelsea's money train. Still Arsenal secured the second place and Champions League place a few matches before the end of the season. Bergkamp was a substitute in some of the matches while Reyes or van Persie played up front, a scene we saw more and more often in the forthcoming season. One of the greatest memories of the season was definitely the 7-0 trashing of Everton, a match which made the Highbury faithful to chant "One more year" (for Bergkamp) in unison. Bergkamp was at his majestic and inspirational best, playing a prominent role in all three first-half goals and scoring one himself at the second half. After the match Dennis commented:

It is difficult not to get emotional when they start cheering and shouting one more year. I had made up my mind already but this only made it more clear to me. Also if there was any doubt with the fans this has taken it away. I know I have respect from them but they seem to sense there is another year left in me. That is great from my point of view.

All in all, there were no reason to think that Bergkamp couldn't succeed another great season at Arsenal, even at the age of 36. His imagination and professionalism was invaluable in the young Arsenal squad.

Arsenal started the season 2005/06 with high hopes with their young but talented squad. Still the season was very frustrating, the team's performances ranging from terrific to horrible. Bergkamp was classy as ever but it was obvious almost right from the start of the season that this would be it, Bergkamp's final season. Class is permanent, but someday the physical side isn't just enough anymore for the top level.

Bergkamp gave glimpses of his murderous passing in the first half of the season and he even scored a great last-minute winner in the Champions League against Swiss side FC Thun. Bergkamp also made his 300th Premiership appearance for the club against Sunderland in November. Nevertheless he was occasionally injured from December to March and didn't feature in too many matches.

On Saturday April 15, Highbury celebrated its final season and Bergkamp's 11 years at the Club with Dennis Bergkamp Day. Fortunately, Dennis was fit for the match - and steered the Gunners to victory. The Dutchman came off the bench to create one and brilliantly score another after Arsenal had been pegged back. The goal was typical Bergkamp: he rose to the occasion by curling a trademark shot into the top corner of the net to leave the crowd in rapture. Dennis smiled:

It reminded me a few goals I scored in 1998, bending it around the keeper. It was a good finish, but I would like to score more.

Arsene Wenger commented after the match:

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 himself was astonished by the fans' orange invasion:

Quite special,

he commented with typical modesty when asked about the superb curling finish that capped both the victory over West Brom and a day in his honour at Highbury.

Someone mentioned at the training ground that there would be about 10,000 fans in orange T-shirts. I could not really figure out what it was, and when I came out for the warm-up, I thought 'whoa! - this is it then'

The crowd gave Bergkamp a roof-lifting ovation when he came on. You couldn't expect any less.

In the end of April Bergkamp turned down coaching role - at least for now.

At the moment I would say I won't become a coach. People say once you have been out of football for a little while you always go back, so maybe I will come back into it. But what I know for sure is that when I stop playing I want a complete break. I think when I retire I need to close that part of my life before I move on to do something else. I think it's important that I relax a little bit.

On Sunday May 7 2006, Arsenal and Bergkamp left Highbury after so many years together. Arsenal's farewell to Highbury Stadium began as the last rites for one of English soccer's great cathedrals but ended as an almighty celebration. After 93 years, the Gunners' 2010th and final match at their north London home before moving down the hill to the new 60,000-seater Emirates Stadium ended in exhilaration. A 4-2 win over Wigan Athletic, thanks to a hat-trick from captain Thierry Henry, allowed Arsenal to jump above arch-rivals Tottenham and grab fourth place in the Premier League and the final Champions League qualifying spot. Still, of all the memories from Arsenal's farewell to Highbury, few match the moment when Dennis Bergkamp emerged from the bench. As the Dutch master prepared for his last competitive appearance on English soil, the crowd rose to give him a standing ovation. Suddenly, news filtered through from Upton Park that West Ham had retaken the lead against Tottenham. As Bergkamp jogged onto the Highbury pitch for the final time, the stadium was rocking. Dennis nearly chipped in a sentimental goal in the final stages but this time it just wasn't meant to be.

It was emotional personally because it was the end of my career, but saying goodbye to Highbury was a big thing as well. It's good to play football, especially here. It's an honour to play for Arsenal, to come on the pitch and show what I can do. I think when you're on the bench you're always hoping, if you're losing or if you're winning, you always want to get on. My team-mates know what I've done at Highbury and for Arsenal in general. They really respect that, they appreciate that and it shows what kind of players these are. They respect each other.

Bergkamp didn't get the crowning for his career he would have deserved - Barcelona scored twice late on to stun 10-man Arsenal and won the Champions League 2-1 in a tense, absorbing final at Stade de France on 17th of May 2006. Bergkamp was on the bench but didn't get any minutes as the situation was very hard for Arsenal after keeper Jens Lehmann got sent off just after 18 minutes. Still it was a full-hearted performance by Arsenal.

So many good Bergkamp magic moments have been seen - maybe we won't walk in a Bergkamp wonderland anymore, but the legend of the non-flying Dutchman will live forever. Dennis, we won't never forget you, thank you for all the memories!


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