Danish international Nicklas Bendtner joined Arsenal a 16-year-old and was involved with the senior squad between 2005 and 2014, playing with such legends of the game as Dennis Bergkamp, Cesc Fabregas, Ian Wright and of course current Montreal Impact boss, Thierry Henry.
Simply put, at the time he joined the Gunners, Bendtner was one of the hottest young properties around. But his career didn’t quite pan out how many thought it would.
He’s been speaking to the BBC’s Steve Crossman (the full interview can be accessed on BBC Sounds) and has opened up on gambling, his ‘Lord Bendtner’ nickname, his conviction for assaulting a taxi driver and a training ground confrontation with Henry when he was just 16.
Bendtner now 32, is back living in his native Denmark and has written a book, Both Sides, about his life in football so far.
Speaking of his confrontation with Thierry Henry, he described the incident fairly graphically, but concluded the Impact coach was probably quite right in how he handled the situation.
“Looking back now I can see I was out of order”
Henry had won the World Cup with France, was the real star of a very good Arsenal team and was one of the biggest names in world football at the time.
But the two had a confrontation when the teenager rather boldly called out the Frenchman for taking three touches in a game of two-touch in training.
Bendtner says: “Henry tells me to shut up, this time with a lot of swear words included. And in hindsight it is good advice. But I am not taking it in. I shout back. He confronts me, yells into my face, says all kinds of things.
“But that is not the end of it. After training Henry comes after me.”
The result was a two-hour heart-to-heart about Bendtner’s attitude and his career path.
“Thierry was probably the biggest star in the league at that time and his record speaks for itself,” he says. “Looking back now I can see that I was out of order. My head was different back then. We had this little dispute where he puts me right in my place.
But after having his card firmly marked, Bendtner was not above recognizing how Henry concluded the situation in a way that displayed a caring disposition and a desire to end the confrontation on a positive note.
“After, he put his arm around me and said ‘listen I need to explain a few things about how this works’. That gave me a lot of respect for the guy. I thought that was really big. For three months I didn’t train with them [the first team] and that was my lesson. It showed me and I knew to shut it. It helped me a lot. I was 16 at this point.
“Looking back now I think you should just keep your head down and do what your elders tell you. I think that’s one of the things that still should remain in football but I was just very competitive and I was just in that zone. You didn’t obviously know how it all worked. It was all new so you had to learn. That was a big learning curve for me.”
What’s Bendtner doing now?
After a career which included playing for the likes of Arsenal and Juventus and winning 81 caps (30 goals) for his country, Bendtner signed for FC Copenhagen on transfer deadline day September 2019, the club later confirming a week before Christmas it would not be extending his contract.
Bendtner played 6 league games and scored his only goal in a cup-tie against one of Patrice Bernier’s old clubs, Nordsjaelland.
Back in August this year, another Danish club, Tarnby FF, announced Bendtner had signed for them, where he would become part of the “M+32 Old Boys” team.
On his joining the club, organizer of the M+32 team, Martin Skov Hæstrup stated, “We are very happy that Nicklas wants to stay in shape with some of the guys he has known for many years. This opportunity is something we have been discussing for many years.”
Bendtner made his debut for the team in September playing as an attacking midfielder in a game against Fredensborg which ended in a 1-0 victory.