Nicklas Bendtner – At a career crossroads

Bendtner JuventusIt’s hard to know where to start with Nicklas Bendtner. He’s one of those players usually on the receiving end of words like ‘enigma’ – a word which, in footballing terms, always seems to mean ‘potentially good player, but a bit of a tool’.

It was the Dane who famously defied the rules of mere science by managing to break a test of confidence carried out by French psychologist Jacques Crevoisier. Most fans have heard the story; the test ranks the self-belief of a player from 1-9, and that boy Nicklas naturally goes and scores a 10, much to the delight of Pat Rice, who apparently couldn’t control his laughter.

Let’s not forget that Crevoisier has worked closely with Wenger for decades, and has examined players known for their ability and confidence – the likes of Henry and Anelka; even so, Bendtner’s score was the highest ever recorded.

Crevoisier said, “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.” Yeah, you might be inclined to say that having a self-indulgent and deluded striker could prove disharmonious.

“But you can also view it as this guy has a remarkable ability to come back after setbacks,” said Crevoisier. Should this prove to be true, then Bendtner will need to utilise this ability for recovery now more than ever.

He was recently caught drunk driving the wrong way down a street in Copenhagen, resulting in a six month ban by the Danish Football Federation [DBU]. It is important to remember that the DBU acted under no legal obligation to ban the striker, instead reacting in accordance with their own standards.  A statement read, “The DBU respect the rights of all players to have a private life, but we also have certain rules that need to be met by international players in their public behaviour.”

Their wording was also somewhat revealing, in mentioning that Bendtner should take the time off to “to think over his international future.” A sign, perhaps, that the federation could happily proceed without him – but could the team cope without his talent?

There is little doubt that Bendtner is a capable player. However, with the presumed exception of except the Dane himself, many people must have been surprised after his loan move to Juventus on the back of a decent season with Sunderland. Decent is perhaps being kind; he only managed 8 goals in 30 appearances as Sunderland came 13th.

Between 2008 and 2010 was possibly Bendtner’s best time with Arsenal. He was in his early 20s, comfortably reaching double figures for two successive seasons, and occasionally showed glimpses that he may possibly grow into an accomplished Premier League striker. In an April 2010 interview with Daily Mail, he said, “‘if you ask me if I am one of the best strikers in the world, I say yes because I believe it.” Despite his improvements in his goal tally, he was still frequently missing chances and wasting possession. However, he was in his early twenties with many years ahead to improve.

He was in and out of the Arsenal team throughout the 2010/2011 season, after struggling to recover from an injury sustained in the World Cup, which was compounded on top of previous injuries he had suffered in a car crash in late 2009. Summer 2011 saw the Dane edging closer to an Arsenal exit, and in typical fashion, he wasn’t going to go quietly.

Upon signing a year-long loan contract with Sunderland in August 2011, he told The Sun, “”I will never go back to Arsenal. If I can have it my way, I will never play for them again. After my car accident I never really got the chance to earn a spot in the first team. That is over one-and-a-half years with no real chance to prove myself.”

True to his word, he managed another loan deal in August 2012, this time to Scudetto winners Juventus. As soon as the singing was complete, Bendtner spoke of moving on, enjoying a new league, and letting his football do the talking these days. In a filmed interview with Juventus’ website, he appeared calm, confident without being cocky, and composed. Still, old habits die hard; within hours of signing the contract, he requested the iconic #10 shirt, recently vacant after some bloke called Alessandro Del Piero wore it for a while. Mind you, he had previous offences of a similar nature, asking Eduardo if he could have his #9 shirt at Arsenal.

The request was, naturally, denied. It can be assumed this wouldn’t dent the confidence of Bendtner, even if Juve Director General Giuseppe “Beppe” Marotta twisted the knife somewhat by saying, “Clearly he isn’t the top player we wanted, but we needed reinforcements.” Former player Alessio Tacchinardi also threw in a few kicks while the Dane was down, adding, “He does not help improve Juventus either. He is not the player that helps them make the step up in quality. I will not deny that he is a decent striker, but I would have preferred to see a different attacker join Juventus.”

Decent. The word is thrown at Bendtner a lot these days. 22 goals in 55 games for Denmark is an impressive total. When he’s not showing off his pants for the sake of an Irish Bookmaker, he eclipses his perennial tag of ‘decent’. He’s scored in the 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Championship, as well as grabbing vital goals in both qualification campaigns. However, this raises more concerns – arrogant as he may seem, he consistently delivers for the Danish National team. Yet, of their own volition, they are happy to ban him for six months.

His time in Italy has been a waste. He played less than 350 minutes of football, coming off the bench 6 times and failing to score on every occasion before badly injuring his thigh in December. The only goal he has managed in Italy was the consolation effort in Denmark’s 3-1 loss to Italy.

He looks unlikely to be fit again until the end of March. By that stage, Juventus could have their second successive Scudetto wrapped up, right in time for Fernando Llorente to arrive from Bilbao – one of the ‘top players’ Giuseppe Marotta had alluded to upon Bendtner’s arrival in Turin.

His Arsenal contract will finally expire in summer 2014, with Denmark looking unlikely to make it to the World Cup in Brazil. Next season will possibly be the 25-year-old’s last chance to prove his doubters wrong, if he is to go back on his word and chooses to stay with Arsenal. However, it doesn’t seem like something befitting of the man.

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Alex Keery

3 thoughts on “Nicklas Bendtner – At a career crossroads

  1. Bendtner has been given enough to prove himself. If cannot score 15 goals now in a season and he will not score in later years. AW only wants to get his hands off him but not yet. The striker thinks he can be mentioned in the same sentence with Messi. He rejected offers from other clubs. He is now a liability and should be given for free to any club of his choice.

  2. I would imagine that Arsenal will try to sell him, recoup any sort of capital, only for him to reject the move. He’ll then have to sit in the reserves, and walk out on a free next summer.

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