Dennis Nicolaas Maria Bergkamp
Amsterdam) is a
Dutch professional football player, a former player for the
Netherlands national football team, who currently plays for
Arsenal. Bergkamp plays most of his best games as a support
striker, where his tactical awareness and deft passes make him a great exponent of the game from the "hole".
His parents, who were football fanatics, named him after
Manchester United and
Scotland striker Denis Law, though they altered the spelling of the name. The Dutch authorities decided that Denis was too similar to "Denise", so Bergkamp's parents settled for Dennis.
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
Johann Cruyff on
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
UEFA Cup in
1992 and the
KNVB Cup in
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
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 own team-mates.
After two unhappy seasons at Inter, Bergkamp was signed by
Bruce Rioch in June
1995. Bergkamp had to adapt to the English style of play, and it took him eight games before he managed to score his first goal. 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 critics such as
Alan Hansen as being the greatest foreign player to grace the English game.
Bergkamp hit his best form for Arsenal after the arrival of
Arsène Wenger in September 1996. Arsenal won a
FA Cup double in the
1997-8 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. 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.
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 a medal coming when they lost the 2000 UEFA Cup final on
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. He is held in high regard by the club's fans, so much so that he has been nicknamed "God" by some.
However, Bergkamp's future at Arsenal has recently been in doubt, due to Arsenal's reluctance in offering him a new deal. 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, it was revealed he would sign a one-year contract extension, keeping him at the London club for their final season at the
Arsenal Stadium at Highbury.
2005, Bergkamp has scored 119 goals for Arsenal. His first 100 goals can be seen on the Centurions
DVD along with 100 goals by
Bergkamp made his international debut for the
Italy. His first major tournament was
Euro 92, where the Dutch defended their title. 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 World Cup, playing in all of his side's matches, scoring a spectacular goal against
Brazil, a match the Dutch ultimately lost 3-2. Holland 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.
1998 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 controlled a long 50-yard aerial pass from
Frank de Boer, reverse-flicking it past defender
Roberto Ayala with his right foot, before firing a half-volley past the keeper at a tight angle from the right. It was widely regarded as one of the best goals of the tournament.
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 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; the Netherlands ended up not qualifying at all for the World Cup, something which many attribute to Bergkamp's retirement.
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. He currently stands second, having been passed by Patrick Kluivert.
Style of play
Bergkamp is a striker who stands out more because of the quality of his goals than the quantity. He has stated that he usually visualize exactly how he will enact his goal even before the chance comes, so that by then he can do so without looking. A case in point is the goal he scored against
Newcastle United on the
2002, which later earned him the Goal of the Season award.
This goal illustrates many traits of the best of Bergkamp: 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 goal is covered on BBC Sport's website here.
Others on Bergkamp
In Brilliant Orange (ISBN 0747553106),
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."
Dennis Bergkamp is also well known for having a
fear of flying, giving rise to the nickname the non-Flying Dutchman (a pun on
The Flying Dutchman). As such, he is often unable to play in matches Arsenal play outside of England. However, for certain important matches, he will, if required, take a train or drive himself there. The tiring nature of such long journeys from London to Europe (and back) often means he misses domestic matches around European away games. The reason that Bergkamp retired from international football after the European Championship in 2000 was because the World Cup was staged in Asia and it is almost impossible to travel there without flying
Centurions - 100 Goals Of Dennis Bergkamp / 100 Goals Of Thierry
Henry  This DVD is an absolute must for Arsenal
fans. Not only Arsenal fans will enjoy it but anyone who appreciates
goals scored by footballing artists. Some of the goals scored by two
of the best players in their respective generations are too
beautiful to put into words. I am running out of superlatives. It
includes interviews with both players and each and everyone one of
their goals is reviewed too. It was a tremendous joy reliving all
the goals and memories kept coming back. Constant nostalgia at its
best. Buy it!!!