Get up to date on Arsenal transfer news, injury updates, fixtures, not restricting reports on Arsenal Ladies and share your opinions on Goonerhead
In the summer of 1995 Spurs chairman Alan Sugar was not happy. A year previously, he had secured a major coup by signing German star Jurgen Klinsmann. When Klinsmann opted to leave Spurs for Bayern Munich at the end of the season, Sugar launched into a tirade about mercenary “Carlos Kickaballs”. Meanwhile, Spurs – who had just finished above Arsenal – were offered the chance to sign Dennis Bergkamp.
Journalist and Tottenham fan Harry Harris explained in The Express a few years ago that a Dutch footy writer – a friend of his – phoned him to say Bergkamp wanted out of Italy and fancied his chances in England. The well connected Harris then saw to it that Sugar was informed, but it was a ‘no thanks’.
Apparently manager Gerry Francis wanted more of an out-and-out striker, so £4.5m was spent on Crystal Palace’s Chris Armstrong instead.“There were several options,” Bergkamp wrote in his book, Stillness and Speed. “Germany was in the picture as well, but I just couldn’t see myself there. The thought of playing for Bayern, it just… didn’t fit. And after Italy, Spain didn’t fit either. My mind was set on England.
“Man United weren’t interested and I wasn’t going to go to somewhere like Newcastle or Liverpool because of the travelling from Holland. Spurs was mentioned, and that had been Glenn Hoddle’s team, but even then I considered Arsenal to be a bit above Spurs. I’m not sure why.”
He may have worshipped Hoddle’s ability with a football, but it was Tottenham’s rivals who got the player, with Arsenal shelling out £7.5m on him and smashing the £2.5m spent on Crystal Palace striker Ian Wright four years earlier in the process.
The Gunners had European pedigree, having won the Cup Winners Cup in 1994 and reached the final a year later. That was appealing to the unassuming Dutchman, who had initially forged his reputation with Ajax before a lucrative move to Inter in 1993.
Before then, Denmark’s John Jensen was what passed for an exotic foreign signing in Gooners’ eyes.