Dennis Bergkamp made a monumental impact as a player during his 11-year spell at Arsenal. Could he be destined to propel the Gunners back to the top in a managerial role?
When he hung up his boots in 2006 Bergkamp was adamant that coaching was not for him. After two years out of the game however, its pull proved too strong and he returned to where it all began.
Currently in his fifth season as assistant manager to Frank de Boer at Ajax, the duo have overseen a fruitful period winning four consecutive Eredivisie championships before PSV wrestled it back last year.
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In January, the non-flying Dutchman was linked with the then vacant Swansea job, but ruled it out on account of wanting to help complete the ‘velvet revolution’ at Ajax – the club he joined aged 11.
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal contract expires in 2017, by when Bergkamp will presumably be ready to spread his wings and fly the Ajax nest, with north London the natural destination.
When the Gunners unveiled a statue of him outside the Emirates Stadium two years ago, the 46-year-old spoke of his desire to one day “come to this country, to this league and to this club specifically.”
Red and white blood of Arsenal and of Ajax runs through Bergkamp's veins. He understands the significance of playing with the cannon on his chest. He is Wenger's natural successor.
As a player De Boer excelled in the sweeper role and his defensive-mindedness compliments the naturally attacking instincts of Bergkamp. Their partnership is forged on the breed of 'totaalvoetbal' which the Dutch are credited with inventing in the 1970s.
The two maestros combined for one of the most memorable goals in World Cup history in 1998. Bergkamp masterfully controlled de Boer's 60 yard pass before turning Roberto Ayala inside and volleying into the far corner to send the Dutch into the semi-final.
Ajax currently sit on top of the Eredivisie on goal difference, scoring on average 2.4 goals per game while conceding just 0.6. They fared less well in the Europa league however and were eliminated after drawing four of their six group games.
Bergkamp has refused to fly since the engine of a plane he was onboard cut out during a flight with the Netherlands national team during the 1994 World Cup.
But his aviophobia shouldn't rule him out from a managerial role at a top European club. As a player he was able to travel by car to most away games in the Champions League.
Of course being a brilliant ex-player doesn’t necessarily make for a great manager. Nor does being an excellent pundit, as Gary Neville discovered at Valencia.
But Bergkamp appears to know the value of winning mentality in football. He cherished playing with the likes of Martin Keown and Tony Adams at Highbury and says he learned much from their British mentality.
The warrior mind frame is an asset that Arsenal teams are often accused of lacking since players such as Keown and Patrick Vieira left the club.
Bergkamp himself had a nasty streak, the recipient of four straight red cards in his time with the Gunners for crimes including a stamp on Jamie Carragher and an elbow to the face of Steve Lomas.
He developed a win-at-all-costs mentality during his difficult spell at Inter Milan where went battled some of the toughest and most physical defenders ever to play the game. He also gained the tactical nous to outwit them.
Having had the same managerial face on the Arsenal bench for almost two decades it’s almost impossible to imagine someone else in the role, but the Dutch duo could prove to be the ideal partnership.
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