The Best Premier League Transfers Ever: Dennis Bergkamp to Arsenal (1995/96)

Paul Macdonald
Paul Macdonald Updated: 19 May 2021 15:43 BST 5 min read
The Best Premier League Transfers Ever: Dennis Bergkamp to Arsenal (1995/96)

When Dennis Bergkamp failed to score in his first two months at Arsenal having joined from Inter for £7m, a huge fee at the time, the critics were already rounding on the Dutchman.

A waste of money, ill-suited to the Premier League, a flop, a bad signing. Bergkamp was branded all of those things. It’s almost as if we should give world-class players time to prove their worth. Fortunately, Arsenal showed patience and were rewarded tenfold.

This article is part of FootballTransfers’ greatest-ever Premier League deals. We have selected just one standout transfer from every season of the Premier League, including two honourable mentions. This list will then be gathered to provide a definitive list of the best pieces of business in the Premier League era.

Dennis Bergkamp to Arsenal, £7.5m

Bergkamp had already faced criticisms of being a waste of money. He joined Inter from Ajax in 1993 and struggled to adapt to the notoriously defensive style of Serie A, scoring just 11 league goals in two seasons for the Nerazzurri. A move was sought from both sides, and Arsenal were able to fund the deal.

But he was joining a Gunners’ side that had fallen off markedly from the one that had won two league titles in three years at the turn of the 90s and it wasn’t until Arsene Wenger’s arrival in September 1996 that Bergkamp’s talents were fully activated.

In his first season under the Frenchman he achieved 13 assists on the way to a third-placed finish, setting up the team for a tilt at the Premier League the following year. Wenger had built his side around Bergkamp’s creative abilities and he was able to build three devastating partnerships; with Ian Wright, then Nicolas Anelka and finally Thierry Henry.

All of that trio consider Bergkamp the their most preferred partner, and it’s not hard to see why. His teaching at the school of Total Football with Ajax made him the perfect team-mate; always looking, always assessing the space around him and, crucially, passing with perfect weight when the opportunity presented itself.

The Best Premier League Transfers Ever: Dennis Bergkamp to Arsenal (1995/96)

The Best Premier League Transfers Ever: Dennis Bergkamp to Arsenal (1995/96)

Premier League titles

After winning the title in 97/98, the following year Bergkamp achieved 16 goals and 16 assists in all competitions in one of his most productive periods. But Arsenal would relinquish their title on the final day; while he would miss a penalty against perennial rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final.

As Arsenal’s team evolved, adding the likes of Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg and Sylvain Wiltord, Bergkamp’s role within the team suffered peaks and troughs. But whenever it seems as if he was surplus to requirements, he would once again prove his ability. In the title run-in in 01/02 he formed an almost telepathic relationship with Ljungberg in the title run-in. He assisted the Swede on a consistent basis to win the league once again.

Though Bergkamp’s influence began to wane he remained an integral squad player in the Invincibles season. It was fitting that in April 2006, they held ‘Dennis Bergkamp day’ Highbury. The man himself curled in a trademark finish to cap a wonderful career and, truly, one of the best foreign imports in the history of English football.

Dennis Bergkamp Premier League statistics

Contribution PG0.58
Premier League statistics

Runner-up: David Ginola (PSG to Newcastle, £2.5m)

Ginola joined Kevin Keegan’s revolution at Newcastle and his sexy style and flowing locks fit perfectly with the dynamic being created at St James’ Park. HIs wing play, dribbling and crossing immediately ingratiated himself to the Newcastle faithful and in that first season he was spellbinding. Linking with Les Ferdinand to great effect, the duo should have ended the season as Premier League champions; but collapsed in the run-in and as such Ginola’s fleeting impact doesn’t stand the test of time like Bergkamp. Ginola would go on to play for Tottenham and Aston Villa, but he never quite matched that glorious first season.

Runner-up: Juninho (Sao Paulo to Middlesbrough, £4.5m)

Half of Europe were chasing Juninho in the summer of 1995 due in part to his performance against AC Milan in the 1993 Intercontinental Cup. So it was a huge surprise when newly promoted Middlesbrough, under Bryan Robson, secured the Brazilian for a huge £4.5m.

Juninho took time to settle into his new surroundings – and indeed climate – but when he was at his best, there were few creative midfielders in the country who could match him. Unfortunately his best season ended with Boro’s relegation, his 12 goals and eight assists in 35 appearances not good enough to help a team with all the attacking talent in the world, but simply too porous a defence. Still, his legacy is one of a sublime talent that injuries stopped from being one of the very best.