Arsenal break record to sign Serie A magician offered to Spurs

first_imgItaly’s Serie A was the envy of the world at the time, but Bergkamp struggled for form and, after failing to prove his worth to a succession of managers, sought a new challenge following just two seasons at the San Siro.So while Gooners may not look back fondly on Bruce Rioch’s year in charge of the club – now seen as a stop gap between the end of George Graham’s reign and Arsene Wenger’s highly-anticipated arrival – he did oversee the arrival of, arguably, the most influential foreigner to ever ply their trade in the Premier League.Yet Bergkamp did not enjoy instant success at Highbury. His mentality, which had been branded weak by his critics, was widely questioned.Although his outstanding technique, composure and vision took time to come to the fore, it was worth the wait for Gunners fans.Countless moments live long in the memory, from the hat trick against Leicester City to the magical turn against Newcastle United.Patrick Vieira provided the power and Thierry Henry got the goals but it was the quiet Dutchman who was the brains behind the entire operation as the north Londoners emerged as the men to beat in England. Bruce Rioch signed Bergkamp in 1995 Each week, looks at transfers from years gone by; the deals that saw supporters express delight in whatever the equivalent of a funny meme was at the time. This week it’s Dennis Bergkamp to Arsenal.In the summer of 1995 Spurs chairman Alan Sugar was not happy. A year previously, he had secured a major coup by signing German star Jurgen Klinsmann. When Klinsmann opted to leave Spurs for Bayern Munich at the end of the season, Sugar launched into a tirade about mercenary “Carlos Kickaballs”. Meanwhile, Spurs – who had just finished above Arsenal – were offered the chance to sign Dennis Bergkamp.Journalist and Tottenham fan Harry Harris explained in The Express a few years ago that a Dutch footy writer – a friend of his – phoned him to say Bergkamp wanted out of Italy and fancied his chances in England. The well connected Harris then saw to it that Sugar was informed, but it was a ‘no thanks’.Apparently manager Gerry Francis wanted more of an out-and-out striker, so £4.5m was spent on Crystal Palace’s Chris Armstrong instead. A statue of Bergkamp was erected outside the Emirates in 2014 “There were several options,” Bergkamp wrote in his book, Stillness and Speed. “Germany was in the picture as well, but I just couldn’t see myself there. The thought of playing for Bayern, it just… didn’t fit. And after Italy, Spain didn’t fit either. My mind was set on England.“Man United weren’t interested and I wasn’t going to go to somewhere like Newcastle or Liverpool because of the travelling from Holland. Spurs was mentioned, and that had been Glenn Hoddle’s team, but even then I considered Arsenal to be a bit above Spurs. I’m not sure why.”He may have worshipped Hoddle’s ability with a football, but it was Tottenham’s rivals who got the player, with Arsenal shelling out £7.5m on him and smashing the £2.5m spent on Crystal Palace striker Ian Wright four years earlier in the process.The Gunners had European pedigree, having won the Cup Winners Cup in 1994 and reached the final a year later. That was appealing to the unassuming Dutchman, who had initially forged his reputation with Ajax before a lucrative move to Inter in 1993.Before then, Denmark’s John Jensen was what passed for an exotic foreign signing in Gooners’ eyes. 5 Bergkamp and Henry were a formidable partnership Bergkamp was a vital member of the ‘Invincibles’ side and won a total of three Premier League titles, plus four FA Cups, during an 11-year spell at the club.Not that he expected to remain in England for so long.“To tell you the truth, when I was at Inter I was thinking of playing until I was about 28 and then going back to Holland. Just take a few years in England. But it all changed once I was in London,” he wrote.Although his importance inevitably declined and he was restricted to the substitute’s bench during the 2006 Champions League final, which Arsenal lost to Barcelona, the impression Bergkamp made prior to his retirement was certainly a lasting one.After all, if you’ve been immortalised as a statue outside the Emirates Stadium, then you must have been doing something right. 5 5 John Jensen joined Arsenal from Brondby in 1992 5 5last_img

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