With little over 15 minutes left of the derby, Cesc Fàbregas stood beside the nook flag watching impatiently as a substitution was introduced. Drawing 1-1 at residence to their fiercest rivals Tottenham, Arsenal followers pleaded with their workforce to go for the jugular. The significance of bragging rights come Monday morning demanded it. A tactical change: Ivorian defender Emmanuel Eboué left the pitch to get replaced by striker Nicklas Bendtner. Clearly their supervisor shared the will of his supporters.
The whistle sounded as Fàbregas despatched the nook excessive into the world with the within of his proper. The younger Dane, having simply entered the pitch and discovering himself now on the sting of the six-yard line, climbed early, nicely above any Tottenham defender, and appeared to hold within the air. Ducking barely to attach with the cross, he despatched a strong header downwards previous the flailing Paul Robinson and into the Spurs aim. Bendtner flew down the touchline, arms outstretched, roaring as he ran. It was 2-1 to the Arsenal.
Together with his very first contact of the sport, simply 1.eight (in-play) seconds since becoming a member of the motion, Bendtner had the primary Premier League objective of his profession. The 19-year-old had notched the profitable aim towards his workforce’s biggest rivals in what was formally named because the quickest objective ever scored by a substitute within the Premier League, and there was to be no doubting whose identify can be heard echoing across the Emirates that night time. As soon as once more London was purple, solely now the streets have been bathed in a shade symbolic of Denmark in addition to Arsenal. The boy from the Copenhagen had arrived.
Because the Arsenal followers streamed out of the stadium at full-time in quest of taxi ranks and tube stations, their excitable chatter predictably centred round their new hero. Simply how good might this Nicklas Bendtner lad be? Extremely, this can be a query we’re nonetheless asking, virtually a decade later, solely now the query is in peril of turning into a retrospective one.
Throughout his exceptional tenure as Arsenal supervisor, not solely have the philosophies of the aesthetically-inclined Arsène Wenger orchestrated the event of a enjoying type now idiosyncratic of his staff, however his elegant footballing imaginative and prescient has typically been realised by gamers not often thought-about able to acting at such a degree previous to their time underneath his tutelage.
Whether or not necessitated by the monetary shackles positioned upon his membership because of their pricey stadium improve or just a consequence of an unwavering perception in his personal capacity to identify that sure je ne sais quoi in a participant, Wenger risked his personal fame lengthy earlier than permitting his membership’s financial future to be jeopardised. As represented by a good few Arsenal acquisitions, most of the males tasked with main Arsenal’s entrance line over the previous 20 years – typically plucked from relative obscurity – have been gifted the gaffer’s belief with out absolutely deserving such duties.
In fact not each striker starred in their very own rags to riches story consequently. Such a task proved a step too far for a lot of. However, because it occurred, not solely did Arsenal retain their standing as a Champions League mainstay all through the whole thing of this era of uncertainty, however virtually each ahead, from Aliadière to Anelka and Reyes to Wright, departed north London as a extra full participant.
Learn | José Antonio Reyes: the person who gave us too few however spectacular moments of genius
Naturally, within the hearts and minds of the Arsenal trustworthy, some gamers are extra fondly remembered than others. Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry sit atop the pile having impacted the well-known London membership in such ways in which their names have seemingly turn into immortal in Arsenal folklore. The likes of Eduardo da Silva and Lukas Podolski, whereas by no means hitting the heights of the aforementioned membership legends, did sufficient throughout their time in N5 to make sure their continued standing as fan favourites. In the meantime, as the shape and fraternity of gamers similar to Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie proved fleeting, the very point out of their names brings about cautious memory at greatest and rancorous remorse at worst.
Although their respective impression on the historical past of the north London membership varies, what hyperlinks these gamers is that many would argue not one among them made a extra telling contribution to the gorgeous recreation than when adorned with the pink of Arsenal.
An analogous declare may be made for an additional of Wenger’s unlikely lads – Nicklas Bendtner. Definitely, his best hour was spent enjoying for the Gunners. Nevertheless, to precisely which class within the Arsenal annals the reminiscence of Nicklas Bendtner belongs isn’t fairly so clear, as his time at Arsenal evidenced an intriguing and divisive participant with seemingly just one factor standing between him and probably the most envious of soccer careers: himself.
Having joined his native soccer membership Tårnby Boldklub aged simply 4, younger Nicklas moved to the FC Copenhagen feeder membership Kjøbenhavns Boldklub aged 10, the place he spent an extra six years honing his expertise in his homeland. Throughout this time Bendtner was a daily starter for the Danish worldwide youth groups and it was whereas representing his nation that his proficiency in entrance of aim caught the attention of numerous scouts from throughout Europe.
It will be Arsenal that gained his signature and he joined the membership’s esteemed youth academy in the summertime of 2004, his head full of goals of emulating the “invincible” season simply achieved by his new teammates. Bendtner was made to attend till 25 November 2005 to make his skilled debut, as a stoppage-time substitute in a Three-Zero Carling Cup victory away to Sunderland, and earlier than the season’s finish was afforded an extra two substitute appearances.
Having been seduced by the attract of first-team soccer, however remaining reasonable sufficient to recognise that his personal identify fell nicely under the likes of Henry, Bergkamp, Adebayor, van Persie and Reyes within the Arsenal pecking order, Bendtner joined Championship aspect Birmingham Metropolis on mortgage for the primary half of the 2006/07 season.
Impressed by his early contribution, supervisor Steve Bruce efficiently requested to have the 18-year-old’s mortgage prolonged to the top of the season, throughout which era Bendtner scored 13 objectives in 48 appearances, ending the season because the membership’s second prime goal-scorer in all competitions as Birmingham secured second place within the Championship, making certain a direct return was made to the Premier League.
Within the months following his return to Arsenal, Wenger rewarded Bendtner’s efforts with a brand new five-year contract and the 2 mentioned his speedy future. Although a number of golf equipment from England, France and Italy declared their curiosity within the providers of the striker, Bendtner made it clear to the Arsenal boss that he wished to remain in London and struggle to earn his place within the beginning 11. Although the supervisor had thought one other mortgage may benefit him, the teenager’s confidence and willpower satisfied Wenger to let him do exactly that.
Learn | Eduardo da Silva and the damaged goals of a spectacular finisher
The 2007/08 season appeared to be progressing precisely as deliberate for Bendtner as he scored his first aggressive objective for Arsenal within the Carling Cup in September, in a 2-Zero win towards Newcastle; his first Champions League objective in October, ending the scoring in a 7-Zero demolition of Slavia Prague; adopted by his first Premier League objective in December, within the type of that winner at residence to Tottenham. Nevertheless, the brand new yr was ushered in with an unsavoury precursor to what would go on to develop into a profession punctuated by petty controversies.
Although Bendtner had evidenced flashes of excellence, he additionally repeatedly proved his immaturity in a disciplinary context. Whereas receiving the primary pink card of his profession away to Everton sullied the event of his first begin in Arsenal colors, the ensuing raucous paled compared to the uproar brought on by his actions throughout an ill-fated night time at White Hart Lane in late January.
Not solely have been his aspect embarrassed by their native rivals, dumped out of the Carling Cup semi-finals having misplaced 5-1 on the night time – and 6-2 on combination – however as his workforce left the sector with their heads held low, Bendtner did so together with his raised: not a social fake pas borne from his unyielding confidence, however as a direct results of a bloodied nostril courtesy of his fellow strike companion Adebayor, dished out throughout a scuffle that required the intervention of Arsenal captain William Gallas and referee Howard Webb to stop additional humiliation for the Gunners.
Precisely a month on from the dreamlike introduction that might seemingly outline his early profession, towards the exact same workforce, an abject efficiency compounded by an on-field fracas together with his personal teammate left Bendtner’s position within the Arsenal staff unsure.
The following three years proved to be Bendtner’s most prolific on the London membership, scoring 36 occasions in 113 appearances, as his transition from adolescence into maturity noticed the striker turn out to be considerably extra dependable in entrance of aim. Evidenced greatest by his two hat-tricks on the Emirates, the primary in a 5-Zero victory over Porto within the Champions League knockout spherical and the latter in one other 5-Zero win over FA Cup fourth spherical opponents Leyton Orient, expertise was sanding off the striker’s tough edges.
However Bendtner’s recreation nonetheless lacked consistency and, partially restricted by accidents, the Dane fell properly in need of the fabled 20-goal mark in all three seasons, his closest being 15 in all competitions in 2009. He might have exceeded his 2004 Danish Younger Participant of the Yr award by profitable the Danish FA’s 2009 Soccer Participant of the Yr however, in England, slowly however certainly, the sight of Bendtner beginning up entrance for Arsenal was turning into one thing of a collector’s merchandise.
On the ultimate day of the August 2011 switch window, Bendtner secured a mortgage transfer to Premier League membership Sunderland, to reunite with previous boss Steve Bruce beneath whom he had carried out so promisingly at Birmingham, and this transfer appeared to rejuvenate the striker. Although his goalscoring report hardly set Wearside ablaze, his respectable eight in 30 appearances helped Sunderland retain their Premier League standing regardless of mid-season modifications to their supervisor and chairman.
Within the days following his mortgage transfer to Sunderland, Bendtner publicly knowledgeable Arsenal of his needs by no means to symbolize them once more and so the arrival of the 2012/13 season signalled the time for an additional transfer. This time Bendtner was shipped overseas on its ultimate day as a shock alternative to strengthen the front-line of Italian champions Juventus proved too good to show down.
Learn | The three sides of Lukas Podolski: worldwide legend, hometown hero and club-level enigma
However these sceptical of the transfer have been proved proper sooner quite than later. A critical thigh damage left him on the sidelines for almost all of his time in Turin and, when match, the Dane solely made 9 appearances for the Previous Woman, failing to seek out the web in any of them. Bendtner was pressured to return to Arsenal together with his tail between his legs.
Determined to make an influence within the last yr of his contract, no matter his whereabouts, the 2013/14 season proved irritating for Bendtner as he was stored as a back-up at Arsenal however afforded few alternatives to carry out – or to place himself within the store window. In complete, Bendtner made 14 appearances – 14 greater than many, together with himself, anticipated him to make – and scored two objectives. This contribution proved too little too late for each side and it shortly turned clear that an extension to his expiring contract would appease no one.
Those that consider footballers ought to withdraw from society to a lifetime of poverty and chastity, solely to resurface on match days having spurned all alternatives to bask in a significant existence outdoors of their day job, in order to dedicate their each waking hour to furthering their careers, are sometimes the primary to query why so many footballers appear so out of contact with actuality and ultimately succumb to melancholy after calling time on their enjoying days.
But even probably the most religious advocates of the previous “boys will be boys” adage would discover excusing Nicklas Bendtner’s off-field – and occasional on-field – antics an train in futility. Not for the heinousness of his crimes, although. Quite the opposite, Bendtner’s crimes have been barely crimes in any respect and thusly a lot of the frustration felt by these whose hopes rested upon him got here from his repeated have to hurdle such pointless distractions simply to aim to fulfil his potential.
The briefest of web searches of the phrases ‘Bendtner scandal’ throw up some risible outcomes. “Nicklas Bendtner facing Arsenal exit after drunken scandal while on injury break”, “Nicklas Bendtner ‘dropped his pants and rubbed himself on my taxi’ says Taxi driver”, “Nicklas Bendtner’s six-month ban by Denmark after drink-driving arrest”, “Nicklas Bendtner’s £80,000 fine for sponsored underwear” current not a abstract however actually simply the primary 4 headlines.
Sufficient there to go away even probably the most simply amused cinephile fearing an ill-fated, Nicklas Bendtner-fronted, Danish remake of The Hangover.
But, amazingly, regardless of these occasions, Bendtner’s most notable newspaper look got here within the type of a 2009 interview with The Guardian. In dialog with Daniel Taylor, Bendtner spoke brazenly, hoping to offer an perception into the origins of his distinguishing confidence and wax lyrical about his lofty aspirations for the longer term. As an alternative, he solely succeeded in opening the floodgates of his misguided psyche, letting free a wave of delusion, making a reservoir from which most of the ‘great’ Nicklas Bendtner quotes are nonetheless dredged to today.
“There has by no means been any doubt in my thoughts about something to do with me. You’ll be able to ask the coaches once I was 16, and even the opposite [youth team] gamers. I knew again then, and I might say it brazenly, that I might go on to play for the primary workforce. And they might go, ‘Huh, what makes you think it’s going to be you?’ However I all the time stated I might make it and I had no drawback telling different individuals about it.
Learn | The place do the disputed skills of Jon Dahl Tomasson rank?
“You want confidence and I’ve all the time had it. I’ve began this season higher than I’ve began some other season however I do know there’s much more to return and I do know the individuals right here know that as nicely. So I’m fairly snug about how issues are going to progress.
“Within five years I want to be the top scorer in the Premier League and I want to be known as a world-class striker. And it will happen. Trust me, it will happen. I look around at other players, I see my own ability and I can’t see anything that tells me it won’t happen.”
5 years on from these feedback and Bendtner discovered himself just a little approach south of his ambitions – as south as Germany, having signed for Wolfsburg on a free switch, leaving the Premier League behind him with out as soon as gracing its listing of prime scorers come season’s finish. As for the “world-class” feedback, maybe somewhat cruelly, the quantity of people that really believed Bendtner was anyplace close to world-class was even decrease than the quantity he would put on on his again at Wolfsburg.
Together with his mysteriously chosen quantity 52 shirt left to dwell within the Arsenal lockers, the ever-eccentric Bendtner arrived on the Volkswagen Area and wasted no time in commandeering the quantity Three shirt, inflicting full-backs the world over to recoil uncomfortably; the very considered a six foot 4 inch quantity three bearing down on objective simply too alien a sight to behold.
However even together with his curious quantity selection, Die Wölfe have been prepared to take an opportunity on the Dane. In any case, in Bendtner, Wolfsburg have been saying their ambition for the 2014/15 season by signing a participant with a fantastic bodily presence, the expertise of enjoying in three totally different nations in addition to the Champions League, and with 24 objectives for his nation.
As Wolfsburg supervisor Dieter Hecking put it when saying the acquisition of Bendtner to the media, “We want to play a good role in all three competitions this season, and to do this we need players who already know what this kind of challenge is all about. Nicklas embodies precisely the kind of striker we were looking for.” Solely, that faculty of thought labored barely higher in concept than it proved in apply.
Bendtner was unable to safe a daily place within the Wolfsburg line-up, typically watching from the dugout as Bas Dost or Ivan Perišić spearheaded the inexperienced and white assault, as he proved just too ineffectual when given a uncommon alternative; his 5 objectives in 28 appearances offered no actual bargaining chip with which to barter. Even so, Bendtner and co. ended the season as runners-up within the Bundesliga and with the DFB-Pokal trophy in hand, offering loads of causes to be hopeful of the next yr.
An 89th-minute equaliser and the decisive spot kick within the ensuing penalty shootout within the DFL-Supercup towards German champions Bayern Munich kicked the 2015/16 season off in type for Bendtner, who appeared wanting to silence his critics as soon as and for all. However Bendtner’s continued off-field indiscretions quickly started to outweigh what little constant high quality he delivered to the workforce and the endurance of the Wolfsburg hierarchy wore a bit of too skinny.
Learn | Remembering the artistry of Brian Laudrup for Rangers
On the again of two specific gaffes in early 2016, it appeared as if Bendtner’s time in Germany was to culminate in an unspectacular finale. His blatant infringement of the membership’s sponsorship and his poor timekeeping solely additional coaxed Dieter Hecking into withdrawing Bendtner from the Wolfsburg line-up altogether, as he pressured the Dane to coach alone. By the top of the season, Bendtner’s contract, with a yr nonetheless remaining, had been terminated with speedy impact and the striker was a free agent as soon as extra.
Lower than 18 months away from turning 30, and with no membership to name residence, Bendtner headed to Norway to hitch Rosenborg, the place he’s discovered one thing like the shape he believes he’s able to. Sadly for the Dane, although, it’s within the moderately dimmed lights of the Norwegian top-flight – not often the place by which ‘world-class” footballers discover themselves.
In 2009, a yr of many well-known Bendtner quotes, he was reportedly quoted by a British newspaper as having stated: “In about three years, I will be better than Zlatan. He is older than me and has now reached his peak as the top scorer in Serie A – but I have a plan, I believe in it and I am ready. Next season, I can finally make my breakthrough and then I still have two years to become better than Zlatan – and I will. By then I will be close to my peak and will be able to look upon myself as one of the world’s greatest strikers.”
Given his type for it, it isn’t exhausting to think about such phrases coming from the mouth of the not-so-great Dane. Nevertheless, when probed about these quotes by Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet in 2015, Bendtner made it clear that he didn’t keep in mind making any such claims and refused to reply any additional questions relating to comparisons between himself and the Swede.
Whether or not Bendtner was conveniently enjoying dumb on this event with a purpose to distance himself from his silly remarks, or he had merely fallen sufferer of the media’s eagerness to magnify his character by parodying his vanity, abstaining from such comparisons and refraining from baseless posturing from right here on out might certainly solely profit the striker in his pursuit of belated recognition.
Nonetheless, in an interview with German journal 11Freunde in 2015, Bendtner was given the prospect to distance himself from one other supposed quote by which he was reported to have claimed to be “a tiger who never gives up”. Versus rejecting the claims or explaining the straightforward which means behind such a press release, Bendtner willingly delved deeper into the metaphor, explaining with an impromptu monologue: “The tiger stands at the end of the food chain. He eats to survive, without any compassion, he doesn’t even feel it. He is the predator… an animal of dangerous beauty.”
So who is aware of precisely how Bendtner will look again on his time on the prime – and whether or not he’ll achieve this with a modicum of honesty. In the long run, whether or not or not the tiger has it inside him to earn his stripes earlier than he’s too previous to hunt is one thing that solely time will inform.
By Will Sharp @shillwarp