Born in 1969, Dennis Bergkamp was yet another youth product of the Ajax school. He was promoted to the first team at 17 where he was quickly hailed as the “new Cruijff” and the “new van Basten”. His talent was so obvious that he made his European club debut for Ajax in a game against Malmo for which he had to fly over on the same day as the match since he was in the middle of his examinations. His intelligence was not limited to the sport, he was a good student and he accomplished more academically than most of his teammates at Ajax.
When Bergkamp matured at Ajax, he did so at the same time as many of the post-1988 generation of players. His peers were the likes of Wim Jonk, the de Boer brothers and Bryan Roy. These players became the next wave of Ajax superstars to attain international success. In 1992 Bergkamp’s Ajax plowed through the UEFA Cup. It was in this tournament that Bergkamp made an international name for himself. The international sports writers confirmed, with some disbelief, that Ajax had produced another heir to Johan Cruijff. Bergkamp and Ajax won the tournament.
After the 1990 World Cup, Bergkamp became a regular on the national team. From the beginning he was scoring regularly. He benefited from playing alongside such greats as van Basten, Gullit, Rijkaard and Koeman. His tournament debut for Holland was in the 1992 European Championship where his goal scoring caught the attention of the world. He scored three spectacular goals. The result was that after the tournament a frenzied bidding for his talents began and culminated with Internazionale of Milan beating out Barcelona, AC Milan and Juventus for his £8 million signature.
But Bergkamp was not a traditional striker who plays up front, but rather he liked to play behind a spearhead as shadow striker. Unfortunately his unorthodox, or very Dutch, style did not mix well with his Milanese team-mates despite the presence of his long-time colleague Wim Jonk. Bergkamp’s style simply did not work well with the team’s tactics. Despite these problems Bergkamp remained a goal grabber in Italy and was the man for the big occasion. He scored most of his goals in the important matches. Even with his troubles in Italy, he still managed to lead his team in scoring during their triumph in the UEFA Cup.
In the 1994 World Cup Bergkamp asserted his position with the world’s best. He was now the main star for Oranje. He scored three goals and was selected for the tournament’s first team. With six goals in nine international tournament matches, Bergkamp was proving to be an exceptionally consistent scorer. Then Bergkamp hit a slump when during the 1996 European Championship qualification series in which he only scored once. He scored again in a pre-tournament friendly and he scored only once in the tournament itself. With this seventh tournament goal he neared Johnny Rep’s and Jan Vos’s eight goal record. A fact that should silence some of his critics.
Bergkamp now plays for the English Premier League club Arsenal where he has found more success and fulfillment. After Euro ‘96 Bergkamp returned to his old form on the national team. He began to score again and his assists set up many a goal for other players. Overall for Oranje, he has an exceptional 29 goals to his name, which is five goals more than van Basten’s record and six goals short of Faas Wilkes’ all-time Dutch record. Only three other Dutchmen have scored more goals for the national team. No other player in Holland today is better poised to become the all-time leading scorer for Oranje than Dennis Bergkamp.