Danish striker Niklas Bendtner pondered retirement in 2020 (He still has not announced its completion officially, although he has been without a club since January last year, – ed.), which was not as bright for him as many expected. Yes, he is among the top scorers of the national team of his country, has played in the Premier League and Serie A for the leading clubs, but still a considerable note of understatement in his career is felt by everyone who knows her. One of the reasons was the complex character of the football player and his preference for courage and separation. The footballer spoke about his crazy youth, arrest, relationship with Wenger and many other things in an interview with FourFourTwo magazine.
Having met Wenger and Vieira, immediately felt at home
– You grew up in Amager (the most densely populated island in Denmark – ed.), Which has a delightful nickname “Shit Island”. Why does it have this name, and how was your childhood there?
– (smiles) It’s simple. It is called that because this is where all Copenhagen’s sewers go.
As for my childhood, it was truly happy. I have never been a child who could sit still. I always needed something to occupy myself, find some kind of adventure. Even when I was in school, I always thought not about studying, but about how to run to play football with friends as soon as possible.
– Why did a teammate pee on your clothes once?
– (laughs loudly) At that time I usually played with guys a couple of years older than me. This meant that the atmosphere in the locker room was tough and difficult, as was the attitude towards me. We had many children from different families and with different problems. I was just a simple guy who tried to have a little fun, make a joke and join the team, but, as it turned out, was not very ready for this.
Some older players decided to prank me, so they took and urinated on my clothes, throwing them in a garbage bag. I was very young then, so this joke was hard to bear.
– How was your transfer to Arsenal in the summer of 2004? Is it true that you could have ended up at Manchester United?
– I played well in three matches for the Denmark U-17 national team, scoring a hat-trick against the Armenian national team. After that, I received many offers, and several clubs immediately gave a contract without any views.
I have always followed Arsenal since my childhood, so I was completely determined to move to the London club after learning of their interest in me. I went to Highbury and it seemed like the right decision. Upon meeting Arsene Wenger and Patrick Vieira, he immediately felt at home.
As for Manchester United, there was indeed interest, but a little later. He appeared when I was 18 years old while playing on loan at Birmingham. By that time, I had not yet signed my first professional contract with the Gunners, so Manchester United decided to try and get me.
I know that there were negotiations between the clubs, but they did not lead to anything. I have never even spoken personally with Sir Alex Ferguson. But, if this meeting took place, then Manchester United would answer that my heart belongs to only one club – Arsenal. By the way, as the interest of the “Red Devils” disappeared, the Munich “Bavaria” also became interested in me, but the result was the same.
At that age he loved girls very much
– In the 2006/2007 season you went on loan to Birmingham, where you scored 11 goals in 42 games. How much did she help your future career?
– From a football point of view, it was a really important stage. I moved from training with the Arsenal reserve to working with Birmingham’s main team, which were then trying to get into the Premier League. They had a good coach and learned a lot there.
But I was not fully prepared for the football life. I didn’t understand which pool I was getting into. I was still a small child trying to be accepted in a new environment. Let’s just say it just went with the flow.
I had a lot more freedom in Birmingham when I got my own apartment.
– Did you call it “shag pad” (trakhodrom, a place for love affairs, – author’s note)?
– It’s true! At that age I was very fond of girls (smiles). In fact, like now. But there is one difference – now I love only one.
– How did your relationship with Steve Bruce develop, who managed to get the most out of you at that time?
– I could be frank with him. Once I was called to his office. He learned that last week I had not been home for four nights. I answered him: “Actually, I was gone for five nights!” What did he do? Imagine, I just laughed.
Steve made me feel at home in Birmingham from day one. He always tried to get me through difficult times and show me how to deal with the pressure that came up. I can praise him for a long time, because Steve Bruce is very appealing to me.
You know, one day in my career he found out that I was very addicted to gambling. He called me at the same moment and said: “Please leave it alone, baby, this is the wrong way!”. Steve always took care of me, even when I was no longer on his team.
Called Arsen a jerk off and an asshole
– During one of your training sessions, you told Thierry Henry to shut up. How did he react and did he help you to get comfortable in the club?
– He was not happy with this! (smiles) Thierry was king at Arsenal, and I was nobody. After that, he constantly approached me while we were studying, criticized me a lot – he showed considerable attention. But that was perfectly fair. He put me in my place!
Despite this situation, he found time to sit down with me and chat. Henri explained to me how to behave at Arsenal, as well as what it means to be a footballer, not only in this club, but in general. He knew how to get to the top, and I knew that I needed to listen to him and listen to every word.
– In 2007, you scored the fastest goal in the Premier League, scored by a substitute player – 1.8 seconds. Do you remember this goal scoring?
– Home match with Tottenham. I stood on the sidelines, ready to break into the game. I remember how Arsene Wenger patted me on the back and said: “Go and make a difference!” I went straight to the penalty area with the best attitude, where Cesc served perfectly. My jump was incredible – I jumped so high (grabbed his head) …
This allowed me to drive the ball with my head into the goal. Having scored a goal, I made a crazy sprint: I ran until Kolo Toure threw me onto the lawn. It was a wonderful moment, at that moment I really felt like a part of the team.
– What was it like working under the leadership of Arsene Wenger? Do you feel that you let him down, or vice versa – he could have done more for you?
– You see, there should have been a dialogue, not a monologue. There were moments when I felt that I was doing well, and I was obliged to play from the first minutes, but he just did not put me on. It was very painful and beat on my confidence. I could have taken the next step forward if I hadn’t been so meticulous …
But despite our situation, I believe that Wenger was an outstanding coach. He always put the team in the first place in his life, did not think about himself. He took care of the club and its prospects with maximum dedication, and everyone knew about it.
– What was your biggest fight with Wenger? The same case with the offer from Crystal Palace?
– Yes, he is. We respected each other, communicated pleasantly and were honest in our conversations. But in the summer of 2013, I wanted to leave the team, Crystal Palace made an excellent offer. But the deal fell through because Arsenal couldn’t find a replacement.
Wenger called and said: “Sorry, you can’t leave.” This was a strong blow for me, since I had been waiting for this transition all week. I called Arsen a jerk off and an asshole to force him to sell me, but it didn’t work.
This moment showed me his character, because Wenger explained that it was for the good of the club where I stayed. It was difficult to argue with him. This was the only time we had a heated conversation. The rest of the time he was the only one yelling at me!
We never got along with Adebayor
– Once you publicly stated that you are one of the best strikers in the world. Sincerely believed in your words?
– In fact, I just said that I want to become one of the best strikers in the world. At that time I scored a lot of goals, plus in my youth I was prescribed a lot of advances, so it’s not surprising that I set myself such goals. I had to believe that, because everyone wants to be as good at what they do as possible.
I have always spoken openly about my beliefs and how and in what direction I want to move, while other people are silent and not afraid to say anything. True, this can backfire on you, as happened in my case.
– How did you react to the actions of William Gallas in Birmingham in 2008? How did you and your teammates feel at that moment?
(Arsenal captain William Gallas surprised everyone with his reaction after the match against Birmingham. The defender was furious when Gael Clichy earned a penalty in the last minute of the match, which allowed the Birmingham to escape from defeat, and in that match was seriously injured After the final whistle, Gallas sat motionless on the lawn, not answering the questions of his teammates, so the team’s coach Arsene Wenger was forced to personally take the player to the locker room. the teams, by the way, also rolled down. In the same year, he harshly criticized the young teammates and the atmosphere within the team, for which he was exiled to the double – ed.)
– Gallas was a winner in life. He always wanted to win at any cost, so sometimes such emotions could prevail over him, and indeed any football player in a similar situation. We all knew what he was fighting for and with what dedication it was done.
As a team, you always try to support each other. Everyone understands that different people react differently. Therefore, for us, his teammates, this reaction after the match did not become a problem.
– What happened between you and Emmanuel Adebayor in the game against Tottenham in 2008 – he hit you with his head? What was your relationship like after that?
– Our relationship with Emmanuel from the first days was far from ideal. We never got along.
In that match, we lost to Tottenham in the League Cup 1-5, so everyone was suppressed – every player played in that meeting just terrible. Adebayor came out in the second half. On the pitch, we had a heated argument. It all continued when our team filed a corner: he came up to me and pushed with both hands, and then even hit his head in the nose, leaving a small cut. We were quickly separated.
Back in the locker room, we had another little skirmish. The very next day we went to Wenger’s office, where a sentence awaited us for our behavior – a substantial fine. We both reacted to this decision of the club with understanding.
After that, we have never entered the field together, either as part of Arsenal or as part of any other team. Wenger had nothing against us hating each other. He only said that whatever our relationship is, we must behave correctly.
– Which of your many teammates was the most comfortable to play with?
– If we talk about the attack, then most often my partner was Robin van Persie, especially when we came out with a tactic of 4-4-2. Probably, it is him who can be included in the ranks of my favorite teammates.
If we take each of the lines of the field, then I would highlight Cesc Fabregas in the midfield. This guy knew how to give an incredible pass: he managed to “find” forwards at any minute of the game, even when he had his back to them. The perfect passer.
To be continued…