Our new “The Artists” collection will be launched on 15th February celebrating the exceptional skill and contribution of some of the greatest exponents of the beautiful game. There are 10 players honoured in this initial range and over the next few days our blogs will share some magical moments of artistry from each one of them.
Today we feature Bergkamp.
1 – v Argentina, World Cup quarter finals, July 1998
‘DENNIS BERGKAMP! DENNIS BERGKAMP! DENNIS BERGKAMP! DENNIS BERGKAMP!’ Jack van Gelder, 1998.
Moments of great beauty are one thing. Moments of great timing are another. So what happens when you combine the two? Jack van Gelder tells it better than me.
When the Netherlands and Argentina met at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille, both sides boasted star-studded line ups: Zanetti, Simeone, Veron and Batistuta for the South Americans, Stam, the de Boers, Kluivert and Overmars for the Europeans. But it was left to one man, a man with a mastery of touch, to determine the result.
When Frank de Boer sent a 50-yard diagonal to Dennis Bergkamp in the 89th minute, the game was tied at 1-1. Goals from Kluivert then Lopez in the first 20 minutes had set the tempo, and a red card for each side in the second half supplied the drama.
Bergkamp’s first touch was a sensation; a vision of coordination as he leapt to cushion the ball with his right foot. The next touch was decisive, flicking the ball under the lunging Ayala, and the third formalised the moment into a name on the scoresheet, as Bergkamp lashed the ball past Carlos Roa into the opposite corner to put the Dutch into the semi finals.
Relive It: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsZkCFoqSBs
2 – v Newcastle, Premier League, March 2002
Much like we’ll probably never find out whether the totem at the end of ‘Inception’ fell, we may never know whether Dennis Bergkamp FULLY intended to complete this manoeuvre of physics-defying skill at St James’ Park.
Newcastle, currently relegation fodder, were involved in the title race in the 2001/2002 season, and as such provided Wenger’s men with a tough task as the season kicked on into the business end. It was however with startling regularity that an Arsenal side without Thierry Henry made a course for Bergkamp.
Vieira won the ball from Newcastle in Arsenal’s defensive third and moved it on to Bergkamp centrally, who got his head up and found Pires on the left hand side. Pires moved forward and played the ball past three Magpies players to find Bergkamp with his back to goal and Nicos Dabizas in close attendance.
Bergkamp moved his left foot away from the ball as it came into him, sending it to his right as he turned Dabizas on his left. Poor Dabizas opts to go for the ball but is a touch slow off the mark, instead acting as a sort of centre of gravity for Dennis and the ball. As Bergkamp turned, the ball spun perfectly back into his path.
But Dabizas wasn’t finished, and stuck to Bergkamp a second longer, only for the Dutchman to hold him off, and shift his body position to finish into the bottom right corner of the goal.
Relive It: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IicmCu47pMo
3) v Juventus, Champions League, December 2001
Two Bergkamp goals almost made the list. Dennis’s fine finish against Leicester in 1997 was just too similar to his goal for the Netherlands, and lost out due to importance. A fine goal against Sunderland in the FA Cup would also have graced this article, but this assist against Juventus is testament to everything that was glorious about the Dutchman’s ability with a ball.
It’s a comical passage of play actually. Juventus, 2-1 down with minutes remaining, were looking dangerous on the edge of Arsenal’s penalty area at Highbury, only for the referee to intercept the ball.
The ball made its way to Ljungberg who had the freedom of the centre due to the unpredictable nature of the referee’s intervention. He ran off, feeding the ball to Bergkamp on the right-hand corner of the Juventus box.
Bergkamp toyed with the defender a little, enjoying a stepover before moving inside and turning to protect the ball. As a second defender arrived, Bergkamp turned his back to goal, drawing the arriving defender in before dragging the ball away and flicking the ball off the outside of his boot past three Juventus defenders and into the path of Freddie Ljungberg. The winger, all red mohican, flicked the ball over the onrushing Buffon and into the net.
Relive It: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_Ag3tXiP70