Looking back at the likes of Freddie Ljungberg, Jens Lehmann, Alex Song and of course Emmanuel Eboué, it’s fair to say that Arsenal has had plenty of eccentric players over the years, perhaps none more so than Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner. The Dane divides opinion like few others around the footballing community. The talent is there to see however his outspoken personality, injuries and off-field troubles has seen “Lord Bendtner” regarded by many as nothing more than a meme.
After less than a season at Nottingham Forest, Bendtner is one the move again, signing with Norwegian champions Rosenborg BK earlier this month. Rosenborg is Bendtner’s third club since leaving Arsenal permanently in 2014. After struggling to make much of an impact at Wolfsburg and Forest, Rosenborg offers the 29-year old striker a chance to get his career back on track. Bendtner’s signing has already struck fear into Norway’s top division.
“Rosenborg are obvious favorite to win the Eliteserien. If it works with Bendtner, they are almost unbeatable. The best other teams can hope for is that he is a flop.” – Former Vålerenga Manager Kjetil Rekdal
A 16-year old Nicklas Bendtner arrived at Arsenal in the summer of 2004 (a “decent” time to be an Arsenal supporter!) following a stellar youth career in Denmark that would see him named the Danish U17 Player of the Year in 2004. Prolific alongside Arturo Lupoli in the Arsenal Reserves, Bendtner didn’t have to wait long before making his first-team debut at 17 years of age in the League Cup. After an impressive year on loan in the Championship with Birmingham City in 2006-07, Wenger decided that Bendtner was ready for a permanent place in the Arsenal first team.
Over the next four years, Bendtner made 153 appearances for Arsenal, scoring 45 and assisting 21 goals. A decent return for a player who often had his place in the starting lineup blocked by Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie.
Unfortunately, goals weren’t the only thing keeping Bendtner in the headlines. An on-pitch spat with Adebayor near the end of a calamitous 5-1 defeat at Tottenham left Bendtner bleeding from his nose and led to concerns about the Dane’s presence in the dressing room. Later Bendtner was spotted worse for wear leaving a nightclub following Arsenal’s exit from the Champions League in 2009. Bendtner’s frequent comments in the media made for further distractions around the club and player.
Whether these distractions really bothered Bendtner is debatable, however the club began to show concern over his actions. Famously on a nine-point self-confidence test administered by Arsenal club psychologist Jacques Crevoisier, Bendtner scored a 10!
“When Bendtner misses a chance, he is always genuinely convinced that it wasn’t his fault. You might say that’s a problem, and to a certain degree it can be. But you can also view it as this guy has a remarkable ability to come back after setbacks.” – Jacques Crevoisier
Unhappy with the amount of game time he was receiving at Arsenal, Bendtner was allowed to leave on loan, linking up again with Steve Bruce, this time at Sunderland. Bendtner quickly became a regular in the Sunderland team, making 25 starts in the Premier League scoring 8 goals and assisting 5, including goals against Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester City. Bendtner was Sunderland’s top scorer in the Premier League as the club finished a respectable 13th.
Bendtner’s good form for Sunderland saw him named in the Denmark squad for Euro 2012. Denmark defeated the Netherlands in their first match but couldn’t take advantage of their strong start and fell narrowly to Portugal and Germany in their final matches finishing third in their group. Bendtner showed at the Euros why he was so highly rated, playing every minute of the group stage, Bendtner scored two and assisted one of Denmark’s four goals.
The arrival of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud in the summer of 2012 meant Bendtner could not take advantage of Robin van Persie’s exit to Manchester United. Instead, the Dane was again loaned out. This time to Antonio Conte and Italian champions Juventus. At Juventus, Bendtner was slowly integrated into the first team, not making his first start until October 28. After this, Bendtner appeared in seven of the club’s next eight matches before a thigh injury ruled him out for almost five months. Never far from controversy, Bendtner was arrested for drink-driving during his time out injured, which saw him receive a six-month suspension from the Danish national side.
Although Bendtner returned to Arsenal in the summer with his first league winners medal, he had a disastrous time at Juventus. Appearing in just 11 matches in all competitions, Bendtner failed to score or assist a single goal while missing 23 matches with injury. With just one year left on his Arsenal contract, the 2013-14 season would be his last chance to prove himself at the club.
Frequently on the subs bench, Bendtner appeared in 14 matches making just four starts and scoring twice. Not selected in the squad for Arsenal’s final 11 Premier League matches, it became clear that Bendtner’s future did not lie at the Emirates and his contract was allowed to expire in the summer ending a ten-year association with the club.
A move to Germany with Wolfsburg did not work out for Bendtner, who struggled to nail down a regular place in a high-flying, Kevin De Bruyne led side. Bendtner scored just three Bundesliga goals in nearly two seasons at the club. His crowning moment at Wolfsburg was scoring a last minute equalizer in the 2015 DFL-Supercup against Bayern Munich before converting the winning penalty in the shootout. Despite this, off-field issues and lack of form saw Wolfsburg terminate his contract more than a year early.
After a failed spell at Nottingham Forest earlier this year, Bendtner made the move to Norway in an attempt to resurrect his career. In his short time at the club, Bendtner has impressed teammates and coaches with his ability and professionalism.
“What surprises me is that the clubs that he comes from have not been able to use him. It is surprising. For he is a very, very good footballer” – Rosenborg Manager Kåre Ingebrigtsen
“What has surprised me the most is actually how “fit” he is, both physically and in the ground game. His movements, twists and turns, his pace in general when he receives the ball.” – Rosenborg captain Mike Jensen
Bendtner made his debut Wednesday in the Mesterfinalen (Charity Shield) against Brann. The Dane came on after 62 minutes and assisted the second goal in a 2-0 Rosenborg win. One game, one trophy. The Eliteserien begins this weekend and expectations for Bendtner are high, Bendtner should relish being the league’s marquee player.
Nicklas Bendtner’s time at Arsenal was defined by numerous highs and lows and will likely be remembered as a career of unfulfilled potential. Still only 29 though, I remain hopeful that Bendtner can get his career back on track and enjoy some successful final years, maybe even a recall to the Denmark squad in time for the World Cup in Russia.