Belfast Telegraph

Nicklas Bendtner out to prove he is top quality as he gets set for Arsenal reunion

League Cup

By Ian Herbert

Nicklas Bendtner is sitting in the domain of the man who once observed that he was in the "top one" of football managers and there is something extremely appropriate about that.

"I'm sure we would have got on well," he said of Brian Clough, with the notion of two such titanic egos in the building being one to make the eyes water.

This is the player who once said in an interview that "if you ask me if I am one of the best strikers in the world, I say 'yes' because I believe it".

At the age of 28, he remains some distance off becoming the world's greatest and with time running short, he is embarking on a circuitous final ascent to that peak, having called time on an unhappy chapter on the continent and arrived at Nottingham Forest, 11 years after it all began at Arsene Wenger's Arsenal.

A few years away have taken him to Wolfsburg, where things only seemed to be going one way when he was dropped for turning up late at training. His contract was eventually cancelled.

That beautiful capacity football has for rekindling old narratives sees him facing Arsenal, of all clubs, for Forest in the EFL Cup tonight and it was part of his willingness to talk that he sat down at the City Ground to reflect on what might have been and what might yet be.

The grounds for mirth are boundless, of course. This is the individual for whom a Danish magazine purchased a plot of Scottish land at Glencoe, so that he could actually be Lord Bendtner - one of the many nicknames Arsenal fans had for him.

"There are worse nicknames. I also have better ones. But I can't tell you those," he said.

Best striker in the world? Really? "I was very young and I might have said it too early, before I had proven I was in that category or could get in that category," he explained.

"It has haunted me and I wish I could get that interview replayed because I don't know if I said exactly what was written.

"But I actually don't regret saying I want to be the best striker in the world because that's what everyone wants.

"It's just that no one wants to say it. If you play in the Championship you want to play in the Premier League. If you play in the bottom half of the Premier League you want to play for a top team. It's just the way it is."

Wenger reflected ahead of tonight's match on a player who had "good technique, good stature, good pace, good in the air, good link play - he had it all in the locker.

"And sometimes we do not find the key. Then you have to leave the key to someone else who has the potential to find it."

The sense of wasted potential was unmistakable in Wenger's voice. He says he was surprised to see the Dane at Forest.

Bendtner said: "I've pictured this going a different way but it didn't. So I'm at where I'm at and I'm going to make the best out of the rest of my career.

"The perception has been I did some stupid off-the-field stuff. The most important thing is to be judged on the pitch."

He certainly won't die wondering how it might have been living life to the full. Might he change his lifestyle for this new chapter? "I don't know if I actually believe in that," he said.

"I have seen people drink and smoke and they still run 15km every day. I've been with them in training at 35 and 36 and they still do it. Then I see people living off salad and water and they're finished at 32.

"I think it comes down to how you feel inside."

No player will seek personal vindication more keenly this week than Bendtner, who is most likely to be on the bench tonight. And no player is more likely to think he will find it.

Belfast Telegraph


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