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Nicklas Bendtner never lacked self-belief or confidence. Some may have sometimes mistaken his actions for arrogance, but here stood a striker from Denmark who wanted everyone else to recognise what he truly thought.
Back in 2010, Bendtner was a promising 22-year-old striker breaking through at Arsenal. Misguided, perhaps, he laid his career ambitions out on the table.
“I want to be top scorer in the Premier League, top scorer at the World Cup and, within five years, I want to be among the best strikers in the world,” he said.
“Trust me, it will happen. I look around at other players, I see my own ability and I can’t see anything that tells me it won’t happen, I’m sure people will think ‘What is he talking about?’
Nicklas Bendtner spent nine years with Arsenal scoring 45 goals for the club
“But as I have done before, and as I will do again, I will sit at the other end and laugh at those people when it is all done.”
In all honesty, it was a long way off from what actually happened and it's something he admits he now "regrets".
“It has haunted me. I was very young and I might have said it too early, before I’d proved I was in that category – or could get in that category,” he told The Mirror back in 2016.
This proclamation was all part of the make-up of this enigmatic footballer, who often promised a lot but delivered little.
No one ever thought Bendtner was a laughing stock, not for his footballing ability anyway. But such comments, at a time when Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were at the height of their powers, seemed ill-advised.
It is not that Bendtner didn’t have the potential. He had proved his worth while on loan with Birmingham, scoring 11 goals in 42 games, and was knocking on the door at Arsenal.
His former boss Arsene Wenger was one of his main cheerleaders, stating his belief that there was a top footballer inside waiting to be unveiled and labelling him “unstoppable”.
Arsene Wenger had the belief Nicklas Bendtner could be a special player
(Image: Getty Images)
In typical Wenger verse, the Frenchman described the youngster as "good in the air” with "good technique, good stature, good pace… good link play", also adding that "he had it all in the locker."
But in the same season when he finally got some game time for the Gunners, off-field problems surrounding his partying lifestyle began to plague his career.
Hours after Arsenal had been humbled by Manchester United 3-1 at home in 2009, the Dane was spotted at a nightclub in the early hours with his belt unfastened and trousers down.
He apologised for the incident, but off the back of a season where he scored 14 goals in all competitions, there can be no denying it affected his standing with Arsene Wenger.
Could Nicklas Bendtner have been one of the best strikers in the world if he stayed at Arsenal? Have your say in the comments section below.
Unfortunately, it was not an isolated occurrence. As his injury problems began to mount and his confidence took a beating, Bendtner found himself at a loose end with money to lose.
It all came to a head during the summer holidays in 2011, he once lost huge sums of money in the space of 90 minutes after playing roulette at a London casino while inebriated.
“I’m way too drunk to sit at a table,” Bendtner recalled in an interview with The Guardian. “That much I get. But roulette is a different matter. Red, black, red, black. How hard can it be?
Nicklas Bendtner's off-field problems interfered with his football career
“After 90 minutes I’ve lost £400,000. Money I don’t have. My bank account is overdrawn and I’m bankrupt if my luck doesn’t turn. I stagger into the loos and splash water on my face. Then I find a cashier and get another £50,000 of chips.”
In his own words, Bendtner had become sucked into the dark side of money and fame, where footballers struggling on the pitch desperately search for success elsewhere.
“I became too fond of the lifestyle that came with the money,” he said.
“I want to go back in time and hit that young lad on the head with a hammer. Make him understand what a chance it is. That he has something special – something he has to look after.”
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. When Arsenal suffered a heavy 4-1 defeat against Barcelona at Camp Nou in 2011, it was Bendtner who scored the consolation goal in the Champions League quarter-final.
He was also making waves at international level and played a key role in helping his nation qualify for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.
Nicklas Bendtner scored in Arsenal's 4-1 defeat to Barcelona
The time came where he wasn’t happy with a bit-part role at Arsenal and searched for regular football elsewhere, joining Sunderland and then Juventus on loan between 2011 and 2012.
But he struggled to hold down a regular spot and headed to Wolfsburg in Germany, leaving with 45 goals after spending nine years in north London.
It was at Euro 2012 with Denmark where he made the headlines once again. Having scored twice against Portugal in the group stage, the striker dropped his shorts as part of his celebration to reveal a pair of Paddy Power-branded underpants.
No one was surprised; this was the joker they knew.
Nicklas Bendtner was fined £80,000 for showing off his Paddy Power sponsored underwear
Bendtner was banned for one game and fined €100,000 (£80,000) by Uefa for the stunt, but the betting company agreed to cover the costs after receiving their fair share of publicity from “pants-gate”.
If there were some regrets for Bendtner, it is that this act was arguably his biggest legacy. Could the football world really take him seriously as a player if he didn’t himself?
Perhaps he didn’t mind. After all, he had accumulated a cult following in his native Denmark who dubbed him “Lord Bendtner”.
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In March 2015, Danish tabloid Se og Hor bought him a square foot of land in Scotland to cement his status as a Lord, something he found amusing.
He also may just be the only footballer to have officially participated in a general election, having run in as a candidate in Denmark in 2015.
But controversy was never far away for Bendtner and in 2018, he was being found guilty of an assault on a taxi driver in Copenhagen. He was sentenced to 50 days in jail and later withdrew his appeal against the charge.
Nicklas Bendtner was sentenced for 50 days in jail after being found guilty of assaulting a taxi driver
Following his retirement in 2019 after spells as Rosenborg and FC Copenhagen, the 33-year-old has begun his development as a coach as he looks to give back to the game.
“My mindset right now is to complete the coaching education and then try my hand at the agent world," he said on the reality show Bendtner and Philine, which he co-hosts with his partner, Philine Roepstorff.
"What can you say? A trial period. To see if it is something you thrive on.”
Being an agent requires a swagger and air of confidence to make others believe what you say. Bendtner may have failed to convince as a player, but it sounds like he just might have finally found his calling.