There have been many examples of players with planet-sized egos in football like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Nicklas Bendtner. In a way, it is somewhat of a necessity, as only having the utmost self-confidence and belief in one’s own abilities will allow you to be able to meet the challenges and demands that top-level football, or any sport for that matter, throw at you.
However, while players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic lived up to their billing through their exploits and achievements on the pitch, many others have talked a big game but not quite delivered.
Former Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner falls into the latter category, and while he has had a perfectly respectable career, he has not come anywhere close to hitting the heights that he described as being his destiny.
Nicklas Bendtner was signed as an extremely callow 17-year-old for Arsenal in 2005 and even made his debut for the club that season, coming off the bench in a League Cup match against Sunderland. Under Arsene Wenger’s tutelage, great things were expected from the Danish forward, and he was sent out on loan to Birmingham City to gain first-team experience.
He did decently enough at Birmingham City, scoring 13 goals in all competitions. He then returned to the Emirates to compete for a place in the Arsenal squad. His best season in Arsenal colours was the 2008-09 season when he scored 14 goals in 50 appearances and followed that up with 12 goals from 31 appearances the next season.
However, these were the only two seasons where the Danish striker hit double figures for Arsenal, showing how he ultimately failed to deliver on his promise. He left the club in 2014 for Wolfsburg, after loan spells at Sunderland, and bizarrely, Juventus.
His time in Germany was also not very fruitful, as he scored just nine goals over two seasons for Wolfsburg. He eventually found his way to Norway in 2017, joining Rosenborg, which is where he had his best season ever, notching 23 goals in 44 games during the 2017 season. At present, Nicklas Bendtner is without a club, having been released by Copenhagen in his native Denmark, and at 32 years of age, it is unlikely that a club would take a punt on him.
Nicklas Bendtner recently spoke about his time at Arsenal, where he admitted that he struggled with money, and was addicted to gambling at one point. Bendtner has said that he would bet huge amounts on poker games at real money casinos and lost around £5.4m through his betting.
While ‘Lord Bendtner’, as he was known by Arsenal fans, has said that he was always in control of his betting and simply wagered large amounts of money, he has said that there were some nights where things did go out of control and could have ended badly. With such an admission, it is tempting to wonder if these habits had an impact on his football, and were one of the reasons for him ultimately not living up to his potential, despite spells at Arsenal and Juventus.
Bendtner remains one of the most popular players in Denmark, although he did divide the Arsenal fanbase during his time at the Emirates. He was undoubtedly talented and could have reached the very top of the game if he had the drive and application to go along with that talent.
Unfortunately, he probably got caught up in all of the trappings that football offers, and while Arsenal fans do remember him fondly, it is more for his persona and off-field antics rather than his performances on the pitch.