Dennis Nicolaas Maria Bergkamp (born May 10, 1969 in Amsterdam) is a retired Dutch professional footballer. He played for Ajax Amsterdam, Internazionale, Arsenal and the Netherlands. Bergkamp played most of his best games as a support striker, where his tactical awareness and deft passes made him a great exponent of the game from the "hole". He is often considered the defining player of this position and one of the foremost players of his generation. He was selected by Pele as one of the FIFA 125 greatest living players. He has also finished third in the FIFA Player of the Year award twice. He is now recognized as arguably one of the most technically flawless players in the modern game if not the finest.
Raised in a flat in western Amsterdam, Bergkamp was one of four sons of a Catholic plumber. He was never known to socialize much outside of his own family. His parents, who were football fanatics, named him after Manchester City, Manchester United and Scotland striker Denis Law. The Dutch authorities decided that Denis was too similar to "Denise," so Bergkamp's parents settled for Dennis. His middle name, "Maria", sometimes attracts attention, though in the Netherlands, "Maria" is not an uncommon middle name for Catholic boys.
Bergkamp was brought up through Ajax Amsterdam's famous youth system, joining the club at age 12. He was given his professional debut by coach Johan Cruyff on December 14, 1986 against Roda JC, and went on to make 14 appearances that season. He played as a substitute in the 1987 European Cup Winners Cup final against Lokomotive Leipzig, which Ajax won.
The following season, Bergkamp became a regular for Ajax, winning the Dutch league in 1990, the UEFA Cup in 1992 and the KNVB Cup in 1993. From 1991 to 1993 Bergkamp was top Dutch scorer, and he was voted "Player of the Year" in 1992 and 1993. In all, Bergkamp scored 122 goals in 239 games for his hometown club.
In the summer of 1993, Bergkamp and his Ajax team-mate Wim Jonk were signed by Internazionale of Milan. However, his time in Italy was less successful. Although he won a second UEFA Cup in 1994, he found it hard to adapt to the Italian defensive style of play, scoring just 11 times in 50 appearances. Bergkamp's poor form was not helped by his frosty relationship with the Italian press, and indeed some of his teammates. However, the fans did take to calling him "Beavis" due to his perceived resemblance to Beavis of Beavis and Butthead fame.
After two unhappy seasons at Inter, Bergkamp was signed by Arsenal boss Bruce Rioch in June 1995 for £7.5m. Bergkamp made his debut against Middlesbrough in August 1995 but had to adapt to the English style of play; it took him eight games before he managed to score his first goal, against Southampton. Slowly but surely, Bergkamp's stature grew, playing as a forward behind the main striker, Ian Wright, with whom he formed an effective partnership. Bergkamp has been regarded by many football pundits such as Alan Hansen as being the greatest foreign player to grace the English game.
Bergkamp's arrival at Arsenal was significant, not only as he was one of the first world-class foreign players to join an English club since the lifting of the Heysel ban in 1991, but also because he was a major contributor to the club's return to success after the stagnation of the mid-1990s. It has been suggested that his signing, in which Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein was the major mover, has been the most significant in Arsenal's history, helping to attract other top-class players to the club.
Bergkamp hit his best form for Arsenal after the arrival of Arsène Wenger in September 1996. Arsenal won a Premiership and FA Cup double in the 1997-98 season (although Bergkamp missed the cup final with an injury), and Bergkamp was voted PFA Player of the Year. In September 1997 he became the first and so far only player to have come first, second and third in Match of the Day's 'Goal of the Month' competition, for a hat trick against Leicester City. He scored 16 times that season, as well as being involved in setting up many more. At the end of that same season, he helped the Netherlands to a fourth-place finish at the 1998 World Cup. In that competition he scored one of the greatest goals of all time in a quarter final win against Argentina.
While his form since has not matched the spectacle of that season, Bergkamp continued to be a regular in the Arsenal team. He won the double again in 2002, the FA Cup in 2003 and the Premiership for a third time in 2004. The club's domestic success has not been matched in European competition, the closest to winners' medals coming when they lost the 2000 UEFA Cup final to Galatasaray on penalties and the 2006 Champions League final loss to Barcelona; Bergkamp travelled overland to Paris for his competitive farewell, only to be an unused substitute.
In 2005, due to Arsenal's reluctance in offering him a new deal, there was speculation that Bergkamp would leave the club, and possibly football altogether. Bergkamp had said he would retire from football if not offered a new contract with Arsenal for the 2005-06 campaign, despite interest from his former club Ajax. Following Arsenal's penalty shootout victory over Manchester United in the FA Cup Final in Cardiff though, it was revealed he would sign a one-year contract extension, which was custom by the manager Arsene Wenger for players over 30 years old, keeping him at the London club for their final season at the Arsenal Stadium at Highbury.
On April 15, 2006, the home match against West Bromwich Albion, the Arsenal supporter dedicated the original "Supporter's Day" match theme (one of the designated theme days Arsenal prepared to celebrate their last year at Highbury before moving to the Emirates Stadium) to "Dennis Bergkamp Day", to commemorate Bergkamp's time at Arsenal. Bergkamp came on as a second half substitute, setting up the winning Robert Pirès goal, after Albion had equalised just after he came on. He scored a curler himself at the 89th minute, as Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners. That goal proved to be the last goal Bergkamp scored in Arsenal colour and in competitive football.
Bergkamp officially retired from competitive football after the 2006 Champions League final game against FC Barcelona on May 17, 2006. The last game he played in Arsenal colours was also the last game at Highbury, against Wigan Athletic on May 7, 2006. Bergkamp scored 121 goals for Arsenal in 424 appearances, and set up a further 166 goals in his Arsenal career. This makes him one of the top three assist makers in Premier League history.
Bergkamp made his international debut for the Netherlands in 1990 against Italy. His first major tournament was Euro 92, where the Dutch were defending champions. Bergkamp impressed (catching the eye of Inter, who would later sign him), but the Dutch lost on penalties in the semi-finals.
Bergkamp also impressed in the 1994 FIFA World Cup, playing in all of his side's matches, scoring a spectacular goal against Brazil, a match the Dutch ultimately lost 3-2. The Netherlands disappointed in Euro 96, with the squad riven by in-fighting, although Bergkamp still scored once, and set up Patrick Kluivert's consolatory goal against England that got the side into the quarter-finals.
In the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Bergkamp scored three times, the most memorable of which being the winning goal in the final minute of the quarter-final against Argentina. Bergkamp took a leaping first touch to control a long 60-yard aerial pass from Frank de Boer, reverse-flicked the ball past Argentine defender Roberto Ayala, and finally finished by firing a half-volley past the keeper at a tight angle from the right. With three intelligent right-footed touches in a matter of seconds, he was able to turn the game and send his national squad into the semifinal round. The Dutch radio commentator for this game shouted "Dennis Bergkamp!" eight times after the goal was scored.
The Netherlands joint-hosted Euro 2000 and were one of the favourites. After progressing through the "group of death", they lost on penalties to Italy in the semi-finals. Bergkamp didn't score at all during the tournament but still played an important role. After the defeat, Bergkamp announced his retirement from international football, because the next major tournament, the 2002 FIFA World Cup, would be played in Japan and South Korea and Bergkamp's aviophobia (see below) would prevent him from travelling there. He did not play the qualification matches, since he thought that it would be unfair to do so.
He ended his international career first on the all-time list of goal scorers for the Dutch national team, with 37 goals in 79 games, although his record has since been passed by Patrick Kluivert.
Bergkamp had the honour of being 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, with Arsenal playing his old club Ajax. Bergkamp kicked off the match with his father, Wim, and son, Mitchel. All four children act as the match's mascots. The first half was played by members of Arsenal and Ajax's current squads, while the second was played by famous ex-players from both sides; for example Ian Wright, Patrick Vieira and David Seaman for Arsenal, and Marco van Basten, Danny Blind, Johan Cruijff, Frank and Ronald de Boer for Ajax. Arsenal won the match 2-1 with goals from Thierry Henry and Nwankwo Kanu; Klaas Jan Huntelaar had earlier opened the scoring for Ajax.
Style of play
Bergkamp is a striker known for the quality of his goals rather than the quantity. His exceptional calm and control in creating scoring chances has earned him the nickname "The Iceman." Bergkamp has stated that he usually visualizes exactly how he will enact his goal even before the chance comes, so that by then he can do so without looking. Two of the best known examples out of many are the 2002 Premiership Goal of the Season, scored against Newcastle United on March 2, 2002 and his game winning goal for the Netherlands against Argentina in the quarterfinal round of the 1998 World Cup. The goal against Newcastle was voted by the FA Premier League as the second greatest goal of the league's first ten seasons, after David Beckham's lob against Wimbledon in 1996.
Both of these goals showcased the best traits of Dennis Bergkamp the striker: his fine ball control, his sublime first touch, his ability to go past defences through quick thinking and his preference to score (or to set up a goal) from outside the box. Further discussion of the 2002 goal is covered on BBC Sport's website here, and the goal against Argentina can be found in the video archives on the official FIFA World Cup website here.
Bergkamp idolized Glenn Hoddle since childhood, but has denied many times of being a Spurs fan. "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 once said.
Others on Bergkamp
In Brilliant Orange (ISBN 0-7475-5310-6), David Winner's analysis of the way in which Dutch football and Dutch culture blend, the sculptor Jeroen Henneman analyzes the effect of Dennis Bergkamp's passes and how he can split a defence: "It's a miracle. One moment the pitch is crowded and narrow. Suddenly it is huge and wide."
Bergkamp's close control and skill in passing the ball has put him in very high regard by Arsenal's fans, who have given him the nickname "God". Other nicknames given to him by fans included "Dennis the Menace", "the Dutch Master", "Iceman", "Bergy" and "Beavis".
Arsène Wenger also said about him after Arsenal's 3-1 win over West Bromwich Albion (April 16, 2006) that Bergkamp had:
In April 2006, Simon Kuper wrote in the Financial Times:
Dennis Bergkamp is well known for having a disabling fear of flying, which developed after the Dutch squad were involved in an incident concerning their aircraft during the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States. The Dutch squad travelled together with a group of journalists, one of whom made remarks about the long waiting time, wondering if there was a bomb on the plane. This provoked a panic amongst passengers and in particular Bergkamp. Ever since, Bergkamp has had a dislike of flying. This gave rise to the nickname the non-Flying Dutchman, a variation on The Flying Dutchman. He was thus often unable to play for Arsenal outside of England. He would, if required, take a train or drive there himself. The tiring nature of such long journeys to Europe forced him to miss domestic matches around European away games. Bergkamp retired from international football after the 2000 European Football Championship.
Dennis Bergkamp is married to Henrita Ruizendaal with whom he has four children: daughters Estelle, Yasmin, and Saffron; and son Mitchel.
Bergkamp is best friends with Marc Overmars.
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