My favourite footballer of all time is Dennis Bergkamp: the Dutch Master. The biggest smile spreads across my face every time I watch him on YouTube, whenever I see the grace and skill of one of Arsenal’s greatest, making the impossible look easy.
What made Dennis so great was his tactical awareness. Sitting behind the centre forward, receiving the ball in an advanced position in midfield, he was at one time the best in the world at playing between the banks of four.
His teammates enjoyed a freedom that most footballers never experience, in that they could make a run and be confident of getting the ball back in prime position. He could open a crowded pitch with one pass.
But it wasn’t just his ability to find the right pass with precision and coolness, it was those times where options were cut down - when the walls were closing in, that’s when ‘The Ice Man’ came into his own surreal league of footballing-superhuman.
He found lobs like they were going out of fashion, he blasted and placed balls in from outside the area on a regular basis and produced cheeky passes to unlock defences and generally made fools of the opponents. Being Bergkamp, when it seemed like there was nowhere to go, he built his own road.
His godlike touches, like the moment against Newcastle in March 2002 (you know the one I’m talking about!) where he seemed to make the ball defy the laws of physics doing some crazy reverse spin around Nikos Dabizas, then shrug off the embarrassed and desperate last ditch effort by the defender to slot home with ease.
Moments like that have garnered him fans from all around the world. Moments like that are why he is the only Dutchman to be inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.
‘Dennis the Menace’ was the most magical player we’ve ever had. People always quote the great Thierry Henry as their favourite Gunner ever, but he had such speed that defenders couldn’t keep up, he breezed past them.
But Dennis had no such luxury and as a result he blessed the Gunners faithful with some of the most inventive, attractive and memorable football we’ll ever see. Cheers to Dennis Bergkamp.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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