Nicklas Bendtner is nothing if not controversial. And when you combine outbursts such as “I’m one of the best strikers in the world,” and “I deserve £50,000-a-week because my job stops me from going skiing,” with his mediocre record of 22 goals in 89 appearances for Arsenal, it’s hardly surprising he divides opinion.
Over in his homeland, where England will face him and his international team-mates this evening, Bendtner’s reputation further intensified. The 23-year-old is currently the most famous – and in some quarters most vilified – man in Denmark, having just split from a high-profile relationship with a baroness, Caroline Luel-Brockdorff, barely seven weeks after the birth of their first child.
With his fairytale romance coming to an abrupt end and his opportunities at Arsenal limited, tonight’s international friendly in Copenhagen will provide a welcome distraction, and an opportunity for the 6ft 5ins striker to prove himself against the Three Lions rearguard. But as I found out when I interviewed him before the World Cup last summer, he’s not short on confidence…
You have been at Arsenal for a few years now, playing with so many great players. Who has impressed you most in training?
“No one. Everyone has good days and bad days in training. If I had to say anyone I think that the goalkeepers come in early and seem to train hard all the time.”
What makes Arsene Wengner such a successful manager?
“His knowledge of football is incredible and he knows how to get the best out of his players. He has shown he has a talent for developing players and making them into world stars. His ability to see potential is like no one else’s.”
Do you feel lucky to have worked under him?
“He is the main reason I went to Arsenal in the first place. As long as he is there, I am happy to stay there.”
You left Denmark at quite a young age, was it daunting coming over to England to start a new life?
“It was hard for the first couple of months. Leaving at 16 and living by yourself is always difficult, but it was a decision I had to make for my future, so I learned to cope with it over time and since then it has been fine.”
What are your footballing ambitions?
“Obviously to win as many trophies as possible. If I can win trophies in different leagues and the Champions League then that would be big for me. I also want to be top goalscorer of the leagues I play in. And to prove I am one of the world’s best players.”
A turtle. You know, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, Michelangelo… I was all of them. They were my heroes. And Batman.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a footballer?
“I might have been in the army or something like that. I would have to do something physical, and where there is excitement everyday.”
You’re known for your extroverted style, with pink boots and the like…
“I like to show off, to be different. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think your own style choices say a lot about your personality – I tread the line between cool, unique and brave.”
You had long blond hair when you first broke into the Arsenal team, what does that say about you…
“Did you like the blonde locks?”
No comment. Are there any plans to re-grow it?
“You never know. I change things all the time, so if I have an impulse one day then who knows…”
What other sports are you in to?
“I like tennis, table tennis, badminton, golf…Generally when I was younger I was very good at all sports. I enjoyed playing basketball and still like to shoot hoops now and again. My mother was a volleyball player so I got into that for a while. Because of my height I could jump high over the net and smash the ball down with force.”
You set junior national sprint records in Denmark. So in training at Arsenal, who is quicker, you or Theo?
“Theo is definitely quicker. I think it is a little unfair to compare me to him – I would not take that challenge.”
But would you say you are one of the fastest at the club?
“Yes, I am. Last time we did a race I was just behind Theo and Clichy.”
You decided to change your squad number on the eve of the new season last year (from 26 to 52) and offered to pay the supporters for new shirts if they’d already forked on printing your old number. Did many take you up on the offer?
“I don’t honestly know. It was a deal where they just took it out of my wages, but I didn’t notice how much.”
What makes you angry?
“Not a lot of things, but if I have to wait a long time for something I get really annoyed. Like when you arrange to see someone and they turn up half hour late.
But you were late to meet me today…
“It is OK if I’m late but not other people."
Who was your childhood hero?
“I didn’t have one.”
You didn’t look up to anybody?
“I was a turtle when I was little.”
You were a what?
“A turtle. You know, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, Michelangelo… I was all of them. They were my heroes. And Batman.”
So you didn’t have any football stars on your bedroom wall?
This leads nicely on to my final question… If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
“Batman, of course. Even though he has no super-powers. He is the best superhero. “
He can fly though, isn’t that a super power?
“He doesn’t fly, he has a utility belt.”
My mistake. So you would not want any super-powers?
“Not if I could be Batman, no.”
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