FourFourTwo's 100 best foreign Premier League players ever: No.4, Dennis Bergkamp
When you put someone down as your all-time greatest team-mate, I think that tells you all you need to know.
When I talk to young Arsenal fans about him now, I always tell them: just have a look on YouTube, Leicester City away 1997, because it’ll show what Dennis did better than I could ever tell you. I still talk about that hat-trick all the time because it was just magic; right there he was showing off the array of goals and abilities he was capable of.
But it wasn’t just in one game, obviously. Dennis won the PFA Player of the Year award in 1997/98 but I’d have to really go back to think about individual performances beyond that Leicester game – his class wasn’t confined to specific matches but over a very long period of time.
Dennis played in that No.10 role where you’re looking for someone to score a lot of goals, but he also created so many chances for others too. He was never a Thierry Henry or Ian Wright in terms of his goalscoring, but what else he brought to the team was just amazing.
Dennis had an aura about him that made him stand out from the rest. He was fairly quiet, but he could also be brutal when he had to be
Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit were absolutely outstanding in midfield for Arsenal but I just Dennis had an aura about him that made him stand out from the rest. He was fairly quiet, but he could also be brutal when he had to be.
I have to say I was pretty much focused on playing for Arsenal at the time, and if I’m being honest I’ve never been a massive watcher of continental football and studied the game abroad. So I didn’t know about him when he first came to be quite honest. We knew he was a record signing because it was all over the papers, but it didn’t make any difference to us – you just got the feeling that you were signing a player who could really enhance your team. But we certainly found out much more as we got to know him.
You never really know how a player is going to turn out for you, but I don’t think we ever worried as much as the media did about Dennis. I always think that players can take up to a year to settle, so you’re certainly not going to judge them after six games, that’s for sure.
It didn’t matter who you were, though – you still had to earn the right to be respected by your team-mates and supporters. To be quite honest, Dennis managed that very quickly. You only have to look back now at the types of goals he’d score and the way some of us talk about him now to see that.
We’d soon realised what he had to offer: his incredible control of the ball, how calm and calculated he was. There was an appreciation of the way he conducted himself; how he linked play between team-mates and showed an unbelievable awareness of those around him. I think we knew quite quickly that we had a pretty outstanding player at the club.