“Why fly when you can walk on water”. If anything can sum up the man, then this statement should.
Dennis Bergkamp was the man who defined the new Arsenal, the man who gave a facelift to a great club which need his shine to add the lustre to its glorious history.
When he signed for The Arsenal he was the very man who was ridiculed for his performances in italy and was told that if he even scores 7 goals for the 7.5 million spent on him, then it would be money well spent. 9 seasons later the man was deemed as a demi god at Arsenal.
Stats and facts otherwise, what set Dennis apart was his footballing genius. What mere mortals couldnt imagine, Dennis would do that on the football pitch. No pass was impossible, No first touch could go wrong, no run could go unsighted, so on and so forth.
When we hear him speak now or if you read his book “Stillness and Speed”, he keeps reiterating the importance of first touch, not the power, not the precision, not the finesse but the most basic feature of the game, the first touch, no one had a better touch than him in the game or no one was better than him.
Dennis dint have things easy at Arsenal, specially the start. We all know that but even towards the later part of his career, he was someone who had to make way from being the main man to the support cast to the King, yet the way he adjusted to the team requirements and more so to the players and the system that kept changing as the time went on, truly showed the man’s ability to mould himself to the need of the team, an eternal team man was the Iceman.
Dennis knew what was needed of him to suit the others in the team.When Wenger talks about his intelligence, it reflects Dennis’s ability to understand not just his own game but the others around him as well. When Henry said Dennis was the best he played along with, it reflects the awareness Dennis had about the others as well than just himself. Remember the King had played with the greatest player to play the game in Zidane and one of the greatest in Leo Messi, if Henry felt Dennis was the best, then you know what he is speaking.
Dennis Bergkamp was Arsenal’s jewel but in hindsight he was the premier league’s biggest path breaker. He made the league a lot more attractive place for other players to come and play, he was among the players who made the premier league among the most watched leagues in the world, he provided a platform for so many others to come and showcase their skills here because the league suddenly was the place for the best to be.
A statue is a small way for the great man to be commemorated. Dennis Bergkamp can truly never be thanked enough by Arsenal, the UK public and the world wide audience who watched him ply his trade. He was grace, he was class, he was modest and yet he had the ruthless streak in him that set him apart from the rest.
A few anecdotes about him-
When Dennis came to the training ground for the first time, the whole team bowed to him and thanked him for coming to Arsenal, he was revered and as Ian Wright said, Dennis was simply at a level which everyone aspired to be but couldnt.
When Dennis scored that goal against Newcastle, Bobby Robson simply said this- we cant do anything but just applaud.
His hattrick against Leicster was there on the MOTD in UK as the best 3 goals of the month.
When he was offered just a rolling contract towards the end of his career, he said he will agree to it simply because he wanted to extend his stay here at Arsenal. In a modern day where loyalty is long lost, Dennis exemplified it.
When Bergkamp was asked why Arsenal? he said no other club came to his mind when an offer came from Arsenal, this from a self confessed Glenn Hoddle fan.
Dennis never took the flight after a terrifying experience when travelling with the dutch national team, whenever needed to travel he used to take the road and a lot of times Arsenal missed him specially in Europe as Dennis made it clear to the club that he wont travel via air anywhere.
Dennis Bergkamp was voted 2nd best of all time by the Arsenal fans in the poll conducted by the club, i wonder why, because for me he is always number 1. No offence to the king though.
Finally we can regale in all of his greatness and also the time to time nasty streak in him which resulted in him getting sent off on more than one occasion but what Dennis did was make Arsenal club better, a player’s greatest impact is not just about his stats but his overall contribution to the club and for me Dennis had the biggest impact than anyone else.
Dennis Bergkamp was loyal, classy, sophisticated yet humble. Dennis Bergkamp was a genius on and off the pitch because the man was born to play football and conduct himself perfectly on and off the pitch.
His balance, vision and technique are exemplary and when we hear people say what a first touch or what a vision, we can hear a sigh by the Gooners who will be saying that was a so typical Dennis.
A statue to the great man is apt but more apt will be having him back in some capacity to The Arsenal, his wisdom and experience is something that will enrich a lot of players especially the youngsters and if Arsenal manage to convince him then it will be a huge benefit to the club.
Thank you for the memories Dennis, it will always be remembered and cherished, thank you Iceman for you were the true champion and the genius.