Having recently seen a number of articles with people's favourite teams of all-time, and people dubbing people legends or not legends, it has inspired me to voice my opinion on who in my eyes is a legend.
Dennis Bergkamp is to me the definition of legend.
Bergkamp is a man who played with his mind, scored unforgettable goals, and most of all was loyal right to the end.
Bergkamp was brought to Arsenal by Bruce Rioch (often still mistaken for a Wenger signing) for £7.5 million. It took him seven games until he got his debut goal against Southampton.
Bergkamp's stature grew, playing as a forward behind the main striker, Ian Wright. They soon formed a strong partnership which was one of the finest in the Premier League.
Bergkamp's arrival was especially significant, as his contribution helped get Arsenal out of the mid-table abyss, and helped make them into Premiership and European contenders.
Bergkamp was at the peak of his ability in Arsene Wenger's reign, helping them toward a Premiership and FA Cup double in the 1997-98 season and being voted PFA Player of the Year in September 1997.
Bergkamp continued with his consistent performances as he won the double again in 2002, the FA Cup in 2003, and the Premiership for a third time in 2004.
On April 15, 2006, in a home tie against West Bromwich Albion, the Arsenal supporters dedicated the original "Supporter's Day" match theme to "Dennis Bergkamp Day" to honour Bergkamp's time at Arsenal.
Bergkamp came on as a second-half substitute, setting up the winning Robert Pirès goal after Albion had equalized just after he came on. He then scored a goal himself in the 89th minute, as Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners.
The last game he played in Arsenal colours was also the last game at Highbury. It came against Wigan Athletic on May 7, 2006, the final Premier League game of that season.
Bergkamp scored some of the most memorable goals I have ever seen and I'm sure some of you have ever seen. I'm sure his hat rick against Leicester, his goal against Newcastle, and his goal against Argentina for Holland (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFvXVlfu4vs) (the commentators alone are enough to some up that goal) will automatically remind you of his class.
His goals were a great attribute of his, but he was also well known for his creative mind and great passing ability, which helped with his overall assist record.
Bergkamp scored 120 goals for Arsenal in 424 appearances, and set up a further 166 goals in his Arsenal career. This makes him the top assist maker in Premier League history.
Another reason he was such a good player was his loyalty to a club that treated him very well, something that today's stars don't really understand.
He was selected by Pelé as one of the FIFA 125 greatest living players.
In 2007 he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame, the first ever Dutch player to receive the honour. He has also finished third in the FIFA Player of the Year award twice.
I'm sure I could go on for a long time about why I think he is truly a legend, and I hope you would agree with me in thinking this. But I assure you I'm not the only one to think so highly of Mr. Bergkamp.
In David Winner's analysis of the way in which Dutch football and Dutch culture blend, the sculptor Jeroen Henneman analyzes the effect of Dennis Bergkamp's passes and how he can split a defence:
"It's a miracle. One moment the pitch is crowded and narrow. Suddenly it is huge and wide."
Arsène Wenger said about him after Arsenal's 3-1 win over West Bromwich Albion (April 16, 2006) that Bergkamp had:
"Intelligence and class. Class is of course, most of the time linked to what you can do with the ball, but the intelligence makes you use the technique in an efficient way. It's like somebody who has a big vocabulary but he doesn't say intelligent words, and somebody who has a big vocabulary but he can talk intelligently, and that's what Dennis is all about. What he does, there's always a head and always a brain. And his technique allows him to do what he sees, and what he decides to do."
Bergkamp's former strike partner Thierry Henry praised the Dutchman after his last game for the club:
"Dennis is the best player I have ever played with as a partner. It is a dream for a striker to have him in the team with you."
Arsenal legend Ian Wright said of Bergkamp:
"He's the messiah. We told him to get us into Europe when he joined and that's exactly what he did."
In April 2006, Simon Kuper wrote in the Financial Times:
"One night last year some legends of Dutch football gathered for dinner in an Amsterdam house. Around midnight conversation turned to an old question: who was the best Dutch footballer ever? Dutchmen have been voted European Footballer of the Year seven times, more than any other nationality except Germans. Yet Jan Mulder, a great centre-forward turned writer, chose a player who had never even threatened to win the award nor, at the time, a Champions League: 'Bergkamp. He had the finest technique', said Mulder. Guus Hiddink, the great Dutch manager, nodded, and so the matter was settled."
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