Bergkamp and Inter Milan's Season from Hell

Richard Hall of The Gentleman Ultra tells Team 33 about the 1993-94 season when they nearly went down

Dennis Bergkamp, Inter Milan,

Dennis Bergkamp with Inter Milan. Picture by Neal Simpson EMPICS Sport

"DENNIS BERGKAMP is a £7.5million striker playing like someone who cost 75p. Now he needs a Bruce Rioch rocket to make him get his finger out.

Those were the words of Mark Lawrenson in the Daily Mirror, towards the start of the 1995-96 season as Dennis Bergkamp struggled to make an impression at Arsenal after signing from Inter Milan.

To give Lawro his dues though, the ex-Liverpool defender recognised that Arsenal fans had not seen the Dutchman's full potential - the potential that would later become genius under Arsene Wenger en route to becoming a club legend.

It's easy to forget though that Arsenal was an escape route from a nightmare period at Inter for Bergkamp which we looked back at on Newstalk's Team 33 with The Gentleman Ultra founder Richard Hall, specifically focusing on the 1993-94 Serie A season when Inter finished just one point above the relegation playoff places - unthinkable for the only Italian club never to have dropped out of the Italian top flight.

You can listen to the full chat with Richard on the podcast player or on iTunes where he explains how Inter went from title winners under Giovanni Trapattoni in 1989 to getting far too close to comfort to relegation:

Bergkamp signed from the Total Football hotbed of Ajax in 1993 when he could have joined Barcelona as Johan Cruyff would have preferred, or even a AC Milan that was more suited to his qualities, rather than the more conservative Inter.

The 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons saw him score just 11 league goals in total (he had far more joy en route to a 1993-94 UEFA Cup win) and his performances were so underwhelming in the eyes of some Italian journalists that La Repubblica would eventually rename their 'Donkey of the Week' section to their 'Bergkamp of the Week'.

"If you look at the players who worked in those [Serie A] sides, there was a real correlation - if you look at Roma with Abel Balbo and Karl Heinz Reidle in some ways with Lazio - you can see they were quick moving, in the box strikers, that worked very much on the counter-attack and Bergkamp was so far from that," Richard explains.

"In his book, he said that he'd come forward and there would be him and [more successful strike partner Ruben] Sosa. Sosa wouldn't pass to him anyway and there would be two wide men so far apart and he'd look back on the field and the midfield would be miles away. Bergkamp needed a team to bring him in."

Inter Milan's Dennis bergkamp lifts the UEFA Cup. Picture by Steve Morton EMPICS Sport

The tactical and defensive nature of Serie A meant it was even harder for forward players to thrive in Italy, especially in that era and it was interesting to see how Bergkamp had more joy in the UEFA Cup which Inter won in 1994 by beating Casino Salzburg in the final. 

"The style of football didn't suit him and he didn't adapt as well," Richard says of the domestic front.

"But here's where it gets interesting. He scored eight goals in the UEFA Cup that year. They beat Casino Salzburg in the final and he was fantastic in that, because in those games it was more free-flowing, the opposition weren't as tight on him and he had the space to move. That's where he was allowed to be more open minded and creative. For me, he proved himself there."   

However, his team-mates never warmed to Bergkamp off the pitch given his naturally reserved nature. 

"I think Bergkamp's as much to blame for this as anyone else," says Richard.

"He wasn't sociable. He's never been a sociable personality. I've been lucky enough to interview [Inter club legend Beppe] Bergomi a couple of times and he's so charismatic. There were so many big characters in there and Bergkamp slipped away and everyone thought he was aloof. So I think he made the wrong decision [to go to Inter] and I don't think he tried to integrate."  

Either way Inter's pain, would eventually become Arsenal's gain.