No, really. Often a figure of ridicule, it could have turned out so differently for Nicklas Bendtner, who was once tipped for great things when scoring for fun in Arsenal's youth team, along with Arturo Lupoli (who now plays for Budapest Honved). Whilst Lupoli was quickly deemed not good enough for the Arsenal first team, Bendtner was regarded as a player with serious potential. Aged just 17, he scored impressed whilst on loan at Birmingham City, scoring 11 goals in the process. Surely, a positive career at Arsenal awaited him?
Apparently not. Bendtner is now a free agent, after being released by Arsenal at the end of his contract. So what happened? He returned to Arsenal for the 2007-2008 season after his loan spell with high hopes, but had to wait until January for his first league start, and he got himself sent off at Goodison Park. He did actually score the winner in the North London Derby, recording the fastest ever Premier League goal by a substitute in the process. He also brawled with team-mate Emmanuel Adebayor at White Hart Lane during a humiliating 5-1 Carling Cup defeat, which certainly wasn't the end of the Crazy Dane's misconduct.
In the 2008-2009 season, Bendtner was pictured being led out of a nightclub with his trousers down, just hours after Arsenal's 3-1 defeat to Man United. Bendtner commented on the incident by saying "I may be young, but my actions were a poor error of judgement and something I deeply regret." Yeah, right. He had an okay 2008-2009 season, scoring nine league goals off of largely substitute appearances, but it was time for Bendtner to step up. Could he do it? Probably. Did he do it? Did he f***.
Actually, he did step up to the plate on one occasion. 2-1 down to Porto on aggregate, Arsenal needed to turn things around in the second leg and it was Bendtner got a hat-trick in a 5-0 win.
Despite this glimpse of brilliance, it was a frustrating season overall (particularly when he was, inexplicably, played out wide), and he began to look like the sulky Nicklas we all know and loathed. Compare this with Aaron Ramsey: both were played out wide, neither are wingers, and neither of them did very well out wide. But Ramsey remained focussed and determined, and many attribute his noticeable improvements in control and dribbling to his time out wide.
I'm not saying Bendtner could have been as good as Ramsey, but the difference in attitude was evident. That's not to say Bendtner was a bad player when played up front. He was great in the air and a strong dribbler when he could be bothered, he also regularly shows his quality for Denmark. His finishing often left something to be desired, but many Arsenal fans have even suggested he's technically better than Olivier Giroud.
After just two league goals in the 2010-2011 season, he was shipped out on loan to Sunderland for the 2011-2012 season. His relationship with Arsenal fans was at an all time low, after he fluffed his lines in the last minute against Barcelona, after being sent one on one with Victor Valdes after a delicious Jack Wilshere through ball; if he had scored, Arsenal would have gone through. He didn't, and I was - we were - really annoyed.
It was at his loan spell at Sunderland, where Nicklas and Lee Cattermole decided it would be a good idea to go and smash some cars in Newcastle. I don't think getting arrested on a December Tuesday is really what Arsene Wenger had in mind when he sent Bendtner to Sunderland. He scored 8 league goals for Sunderland, and Arsenal were clearly keen to get rid. And they didn't sell him, but they did loan him. To Juventus. Juventus actually thought it would be a good idea to sign him.
And there's nothing to report, really. He played 9 times in Serie A, didn't score, and went back to see out his contract at Arsenal.
His last season at Arsenal involved eight league appearances, two league goals and two arrests. The first goal came against Hull, after a Carl Jenkinson cross perfectly met the head of the ponytailed striker, and he showed the aerial ability that had resulted to him being so highly rated all those seasons ago. The second broke the deadlock against Cardiff City in the 89th minute, after he thumped in a rebound after David Marshall saved a Bacary Sagna header. Was this the start of the revival of Nicklas Bendtner's career? Sadly, no. He got injured scoring, and found himself behind Yaya Sanogo in the pecking order after his return. He was also arrested for drink driving, and banned from the roads for six months. The other arrest during the 2013-2014 season came when he decided to smash down the door of a gym in his apartment block. Wenger wasn't best pleased with Bendtner's conduct, and clearly fed up; when asked whether Bendtner would leave, simply said "His contract is up at the end of the season".
Yes, Nicklas Bendtner really has done a great job of wasting away his talent so far. However, he's still 26, and whilst time is running out, he can still develop into the Striker many thought he would. Wherever he goes, it's sure to be eventful. (Whilst typing this article, Bendtner uploaded a picture to Instagram of him completely naked, except for the bra covering his genitals. What a guy).