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Premier League Hall of Fame: Dennis Bergkamp

A supremely technically gifted footballer, Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp was one of the first players to be inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame in 2021.

Dennis Bergkamp Profile:

NameDennis Bergkamp
Date of Birth10/05/1969
Place of BirthAmsterdam, Netherlands
Premier League club(s)Arsenal
Premier League appearances315
Premier League goals87
Premier League assists94
Premier League titles3

From Ajax to Arsenal

Amsterdam born and bred, Bergkamp joined his boyhood club Ajax at the age of 11.

Handed his professional debut by Dutch football icon Johan Cruyff aged 17 in 1986, Bergkamp went on to enjoy seven successful years at Ajax before transferring to Italian giants Inter in 1993.

After an indifferent spell in Italy, with Bergkamp struggling to find consistent form and hampered by injury problems, the forward was eventually moved on to English side Arsenal for a club record fee of £7.5m in June 1995.

It’s safe to say the Dutchman went on to make a far greater impact in the Premier League with the Gunners.

Gunners icon

Blowing Arsenal’s previous transfer record of £2.5m out of the water, and becoming manager Bruce Rioch’s first signing, Bergkamp arrived in North London with big expectations on his shoulders ahead of the 1995/96 season.

Arsenal were hoping the arrival of the highly-rated Dutch international would help elevate the club’s fortunes having failed to win the Premier League title since 1991, and floundered to a 12th place finish in the 1994/95 campaign.

Bergkamp was to make a slow start to life in England, however, prompting ridicule in the national press after failing to find the net in his first six outings for his new club.

The Ajax academy graduate would eventually find his feet, firing home a brace in a 4-2 win for Arsenal against Southampton at Highbury to open his account for the Gunners.

He ended his debut season in English football in 1995/96 with 11 goals in 33 Premier League appearances, with Arsenal finishing in fifth place in the table to qualify for the UEFA Cup the following year.

The appointment of Arsene Wenger as Arsenal manager in September 1996 marked a key turning point in Bergkamp’s career, with the Frenchman’s progressive football philosophy a perfect match for the Dutchman’s technical style of play.

Wenger quickly sought to increase Bergkamp’s influence in the Arsenal side, with the forward enjoying an impressive campaign as the Gunners finished third in the Premier League in 1996/97 – their highest finish since winning the title in 1990/91.

Bergkamp’s starring role in an iconic 3-1 North London derby victory for Arsenal over Spurs in November 1996 made him a true darling of the club’s ardent support, assisting a crucial Tony Adams goal in the 88th minute before getting in on the act himself with a fine individual effort a minute later.

The 1997/98 season saw Wenger’s Arsenal take English football by storm, with Bergkamp a key figure in a Gunners side which scooped the domestic double of the Premier League title and FA Cup. 

Arsenal’s first Premier League triumph in seven years was especially impressive given Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United had led them by 11 points as late as March, with the Gunners rallying to steal the title with eight consecutive wins at the end of the campaign including a famous 1-0 victory at Old Trafford.

Bergkamp finished the 1997/98 season as Arsenal’s top goalscorer in all competitions with 22, and became just the third non-British player to scoop the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award.

Arsenal’s Double-winning campaign also saw Bergkamp net one of the great Premier League hat-tricks against Martin O’Neill’s Leicester City in August 1997, with his third goal – in which he delicately flicked the ball over Matt Elliott’s head before firing past Kasey Keller – undoubtedly one of his best ever efforts in a red shirt.

Bergkamp would have another productive season the following year in 1998/99 as Arsenal’s second-top goalscorer in all competitions with 16 goals, but the Gunners were to relinquish their Premier League title to adversaries Man Utd on the final day of the campaign with the Red Devils going on to complete a famous treble of major trophies.

The 1999/00 season proved to be a frustrating one for both Arsenal and Bergkamp, with Wenger’s charges finishing 18 points behind Man Utd in second in the Premier League and the Dutchman registering just six league goals.

The Gunners would finish runners-up to rivals Man Utd for a third successive season in 2000/01, with the emergence of Sylvain Wiltord and a certain Thierry Henry seeing Bergkamp’s influence wane at Highbury as he ended the campaign with just three Premier League goals.

Bergkamp twice finished in third place in the FIFA World Player of the Year awards - in 1993 and 1996.

Having gone three years without a trophy, something had to give for Wenger and Arsenal ahead of the 2001/02 season, and boy did they deliver.

Completing the domestic Double of the Premier League and FA Cup for the second time under the auspices of the Frenchman Wenger, Bergkamp was able to rediscover his best form for the North Londoners, forming an unstoppable partnership alongside French sensation Henry and contributing with 14 goals and 15 assists in all competitions.

This historic 2001/02 campaign would feature arguably Bergkamp’s best ever goal for Arsenal – and a bonafide Premier League classic – as he deftly flicked the ball past Newcastle defender Nikolas Dabizas before running around the other side of him and slotting home in a 2-0 win for the Gunners at St James’ Park.

The following season – 2002/03 – would see Arsenal and Bergkamp throw away an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League table in early March to familiar foes Man Utd, with the Gunners’ number 10 notching just four goals in the league.

Wenger’s men were to bounce back from this disappointment in the most impressive fashion in 2003/04, becoming the first English side in over a century to go the entire domestic season unbeaten as they reclaimed their title in emphatic style.

Dubbed the ‘Invincibles’, Arsenal won a total of 26 matches in the 2003/04 Premier League campaign, drawing on 12 occasions.

The Gunners would again fail to retain the Premier League title in 2004/05, but this time they would not relinquish their crown to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man Utd, but rather Jose Mourinho’s juggernaut of a Chelsea side.

Aged 36, Bergkamp scored one and made three assists in a 7-0 win for Arsenal against Everton on the final day of the 2004/05 Premier League season, with the Gunners faithful’s chants for “one more year” prompting the veteran to agree a new one-year contract at the club.

Bergkamp’s final season at Arsenal in 2005/06 would see the North London side finish fourth in the Premier League, with Gunners supporters celebrating the iconic forward’s service to the club during an organised ‘Dennis Bergkamp Day’ in April 2006 as Wenger’s side defeated West Brom 3-1 at Highbury – with the Dutchman registering a goal and an assist off the bench.

In July 2006, Bergkamp received the perfect send-off at Arsenal with a testimonial match against former club Ajax arranged to formally open the Gunners’ new home at the Emirates Stadium.

The scorer of some of the best goals English football has ever seen, Bergkamp will forever be remembered as not only an Arsenal legend - but a true Premier League great.

Style of play:

A product of Ajax’s youth academy, programmed in line with the ‘Total Football’ philosophy of the legendary Johan Cruyff, Bergkamp was a footballer with outstanding technical ability.

Bergkamp was most effective as a second striker, playing in behind the likes of Ian Wright and Thierry Henry, with the Dutchman equally capable of scoring goals and making assists.

Arguably one of the most intelligent players to have ever played in the Premier League, Bergkamp was a master of finding space in the final third and unlocking defences with a piece of individual skill or a sumptuous pass.

Possessing a phenomenal first touch and excellent balance, Bergkamp was the scorer of some of the finest goals in Premier League history – including memorable efforts against Leicester City and Newcastle Utd.

Life after football:

After retiring from professional football, Bergkamp moved into coaching, first serving as Johan Neeskens’ assistant with the Netherlands B team before returning to Ajax where he worked at the club’s academy.

In August 2011, Bergkamp worked under former teammate Frank De Boer as Ajax’s assistant manager, before departing six years later in December 2017.

Did you know?

Nicknamed the ‘Non-Flying Dutchman’, Bergkamp suffers with aviophobia – the fear of flying. This prevented the forward from competing in many away matches in Europe for Arsenal, as well as international fixtures for the Netherlands during his career.

The son of an amateur footballer in the Dutch lower leagues, Bergkamp was named after legendary Man Utd and Scotland striker Denis Law.

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