Nicklas Bendtner on fast cars and having too much too young
‘There’s been girls and gambling… oh and I have been blackmailed twice!’: Nicklas Bendtner opens up on fast cars, his £200,000 underpants publicity stunt, dating a baroness and having too much too young
- Nicklas Bendtner has spoken to Sportsmail about his extraordinary playing days
- The ex-Arsenal striker endured plenty of controversy during his time in England
- Bendtner wrote off his fast car and fought with Emmanuel Adebayor on the pitch
- The now 32-year-old also accepted £200,000 for an underpants publicity stunt
It is at the point in the story where Nicklas Bendtner has written off his Aston Martin – blowing the two left tyres and catapulting down a bank after approaching the London Colney exit of the A1 at 70mph – that you want to shake Arsene Wenger and, just for once, see some fury in the man.
The crash, as Andrea Bocelli’s voice boomed out of the car’s speakers on a bright Sunday morning in September 2009, was by no means Bendtner’s fault.
He says another driver cut into his lane as they approached the exit. It was an evasion strategy which catapulted him over the crash barrier, on to the bank and then, once the car had landed, sent him spinning ‘down, down, down’ the bank.
Arsene Wenger had rarely showed anything more than disappointment with Nicklas Bendtner
The former Arsenal striker has laid bare stories from his extraordinary career with Sportsmail
But though it was ‘business as usual the next day’, Bendtner, who had arrived in England aged 16, sustained groin injuries which were still affecting him the following spring, leading Wenger to urge him not to go to the 2010 World Cup with Denmark. He ignored him, went to South Africa anyway and came back substantially worse.
This, you suppose, might just be a moment when Wenger asks Bendtner why on God’s earth does every moment of promise in his life – the crash came the day after he played all 90 minutes of a 1-0 win at Fulham – seem to be followed by catastrophe.
The conversation never came. On those occasions the two spoke in Wenger’s office it was around the sofas where the manager liked to watch videos of games.
Never face-to-face across his desk at the back of the room.
Bendtner played under legendary Arsenal manager Wenger between the years of 2005-2014
An on-pitch fight with Emmanuel Adebayor. Dismissal on his Premier League debut. Being hauled, drunk, from Boujis nightclub with his trousers around his knees.
None of these seem to warrant anything more than a fine and a sense that Wenger is ‘disappointed’. The simple contravention of a midweek curfew was all it took to get Ryan Giggs extracted from a house in Blackpool by Sir Alex Ferguson, whom Bendtner says wanted to sign him in 2008.
Ferguson had eyes everywhere.
So yes, in hindsight, Bendtner does feel that his career could have been different had someone said ‘no’ in the early years.
‘The key thing was that I had no one in my life saying “no”,’ he reflects from another sofa, in the Copenhagen office of Rune Skyum-Nielsen, the writer and friend he has worked with on Both Sides, his autobiography which is published in English next week. ‘Everyone I knew was just saying what I wanted to hear.’
Ferguson would have handled him very differently. ‘Maybe. But it depends on the type of person you are. You need someone in the background who knows you really well, when you’re someone like I was. I was on the periphery so I got away with it. It wasn’t Wenger’s job to babysit me.’
Bendtner left the Gunners officially in 2014 before joining German outfit Wolfsburg
It was actually Steve Bruce – for whom Bendtner played on loan at Birmingham and Sunderland – who did more than anyone in England to put him straight. There were grounds for suspicion. Bendtner dated Bruce’s daughter Amy – the result of a £1,000 bet with some of his Birmingham team-mates – and he later came to be the cause of the couple’s split.
But it was Bruce, not Wenger, who called him up one night in 2011 when Bendtner, then with Arsenal, was so consumed by the casino that he was losing up to £100,000 a night. ‘Stay away from all that s**t, lad,’ Bruce told him. ‘It ruins people. No one is spared.’
This wise counsel had its limits. Bendtner was 18 and, rumour had it, frequenting lap dancing bars four nights a week during this period when, in 2006, Bruce summoned him into his office for what seemed set to be a straightening out. No, Bendtner told Bruce. It was five nights a week.
‘Bruce stiffens,’ Bendtner writes. ‘First he needs to make sure I have said what I have just said. He opens his mouth but no sound comes out. Perhaps he’s having a heart attack. He begins to splutter and ends up with his head on his desk. Roaring with laughter.’
Bendtner reflects that the Birmingham time was ‘not what I needed as a teenager’. Which is putting it mildly. Barely out of adolescence, he is put up in the penthouse apartment recently vacated by Jermaine Pennant, with cleaning services laid on by the club.
Bruce, the current Newcastle boss, called Bendtner in 2011 and warned him about gambling
Bendtner joined Birmingham on loan and admitted his time at the club was not what he needed
‘Three ladies come in shifts and keep things in order. They wash my cars and cook food for me when I choose to eat at home.
‘I’ve supplemented my Audi A4 S with a Range Rover Sport, but strip clubs like Legs 11 and Spearmint Rhino are what seriously loosen my purse strings. It’s the done thing when playing in Birmingham.’
None of this is related with any sense of conceit or ego by Bendtner. The book – an extraordinary, granular depiction of a young football star’s life – is laden with self-deprecation and expressions of disbelief at his young self.
‘Looking back now, I’m ashamed, I try tons of things others can only dream of and don’t really appreciate it for what it is,’ he says at one stage. He has just stumbled into the wine scene and bought £150,000 worth of Bordeaux.
There is so much background noise that you wonder how he actually managed to sustain the career he did, scoring 45 goals in 171 appearances for Arsenal.
The now 32-year-old scored 45 goals for Arsenal from 171 appearances despite the chaos
Two Porsches – a Cayenne Turbo S and a 911 Turbo S – ‘join the fleet’ before he turns 20. By the age of 21 he has moved in with hereditary baroness Caroline Elizabeth Ada Iuel-Brockdorff – a Danish TV star 13 years his senior – and her two children, earning him the nickname ‘Lord Bendtner’ with Arsenal fans.
He is 22 when she gives birth to their child, Nicholas. They separated shortly afterwards
And every now and then, the football comes bursting out. The youth coaches at Arsenal, Neil Banfield, Steve Bould and Liam Brady, were better than most he played under professionally, he says. ‘For a young striker, there was one rule above all others. If you didn’t keep the ball under control when you receive it, then the team couldn’t push up and you would f*** the rest of your team-mates. You keep the ball, lay it off and get yourself into the box.’
The example Arsenal were obsessed with was Alan Shearer. After serious injury slowed him, he returned, remade himself and was impossible to dispossess.
Bendtner’s first Premier League goal, a winner against Tottenham, was an object of beauty. A week later he was dismissed on his first Premier League start, at Everton.
Bendtner netted his first league goal for Arsenal against Tottenham seconds after coming on
His finest goal for Denmark was despatched on the half volley, left-footed, against Portugal in the autumn of 2009. Three weeks later, he crashed the Aston Martin.
The Denmark national team manager Morten Olsen seems the only one willing to censure and, literally, try to manage him.
‘Morten could yell at me when things went wrong and he could give me the attention,’ Bendtner says. ‘It was impossible for Wenger to make it a priority.’
Olsen was seemingly unaware of Bendtner’s decision to accept a joke bookmaker’s offer of £200,000 to lower his shorts and reveal their branded underpants, after scoring another goal against Portugal at Euro 2012. Was Bendtner, earning £50,000 a week at the time, really that desperate for cash?
‘What I was earning had gone,’ he says. ‘But at the time I also thought it was quite a funny gimmick and it hadn’t been done before. Of course, I didn’t think millions would be watching, that people would go nuts, that the fine would be higher than ones given to some players for racism.
‘Back then, I would have done it again and again and again. Right now? I’m not so sure.’
The frontman accepted a joke bookmaker’s offer of £200,000 to lower his shorts at Euro 2012
His family, who knew about the stunt in advance, provide pitifully little wisdom at any time.
Bendtner’s father, Thomas, seems to have expended more energy taking offence than trying to instil some sense in him.
For a time, he decides to become Bendtner’s agent – to the fury of David Manasseh and Stellar Group, who are eventually waved off by the family.
When this does not exactly work out, he takes control of a jewellery business his son has launched.
Under his father’s management, it seems to be consuming vast sums of money without bringing any in, so Bendtner quietly asks lawyers to investigate. Almost no jewellery has been sold, it transpires, while substantial investment cash has gone on hotels, restaurants, luxury goods, plane tickets.
Cash in bank deposit boxes has also vanished. As Bendtner tells it, a six-figure sum has gone.
His father has disappeared too, leaving Bendtner’s mother, his wife of 30 years, and the family home. This is the only point in the conversation when Bendtner’s voice cracks. ‘It is a very difficult story,’ he says. ‘I felt my father’s love when I was the best at something. But as I made mistakes our relationship was more troubled. He shouldn’t have been my agent. It is tough for me to talk about. It’s a… very heavy point.’
Bendtner also revealed his heartbreak when his father left behind his wife and the family home
Empathy for Bendtner can extend only so far. The casual way he ‘flies in’ any number of interchangeable young girls for a weekend while at Forest is not attractive, though he seems to feel he was a target.
‘England is one of the first countries where you can make a career out of it,’ he says. ‘That culture where “I can not only have a sweet life with a footballer, but I can actually make money from blackmailing him”. I’ve been blackmailed a couple of times.’
Taxi drivers have not fared well in his company. One is abused for having the temerity to threaten calling police when Bendtner fiddles with his cab radio as a lark, while he is out of the vehicle, after Arsenal had asked him to find a new club in 2014. Another chases him down for non-payment of a 52 kroner (£4.30) fare and ends up with injuries which land Bendtner in a police station in Copenhagen, later convicted for assault and fitted with an electronic tag.
Almost inevitably, his career goes nowhere. A move to Crystal Palace is stymied because Wenger failed to sign a back-up striker in 2013 and Bendtner’s path takes him to Juventus, Wolfsburg and then Nottingham Forest, by which time he seems to be describing a state of clinical depression.
His ailing career saw moves to Juventus, Wolfsburg and then Nottingham Forest in 2016-17
Much was made of Bendtner’s appearance against Wenger’s Arsenal in a League Cup tie in 2016. But it was a facade, the book reveals. ‘I say I really want to join Nottingham Forest. That I see it as my big chance to get back to the top. It’s not true.
‘If there’s one thing I want, it’s the money. And being an hour on the train from London and Nicholas. I don’t give a s**t about the rest. Me – the guy who has always loved playing football.’
Briefly, he rediscovered that former self and scored goals again, because the Rosenborg club in Norway showed him the attention he seems to need. Even more briefly, he arrived and left his boyhood club Copenhagen.
The book leaves behind a sense of loss – that this fundamentally likeable individual could never shake off the chaos. That chaos surpassed reality TV at times. Now he must settle for reality TV. He is appearing in ‘Bendtner and Philine’, with his girlfriend Philine Roepstorff.
He’s not consumed with what-might-have-beens though. ‘I think it’s a really difficult question to answer, about regrets,’ he says.
Bendtner has delved into countless sensational stories from his playing days in his new book
‘Because of course I would have liked to have driven my football to greater heights at Arsenal but I’m also a person who liked to live and to experience different things. I’ve always been that curious guy.
‘Overall I’m proud. I’m proud of what I’ve done. I’m happy with the life I’ve lived. I’ve lived 10 lifetimes and I’m only 32!’
On that bleak Nottingham night in 2016, when a desperate Bendtner faced Arsenal and met his old manager once more, Wenger reflected on the Bendtner he had known for 10 years.
‘Good technique, good stature, good pace, good in the air, good link play. He had it all in the locker,’ Wenger said. ‘Sometimes you find the qualities. And sometimes we do not find the key. Then you have to leave it to someone else.’
Adapted from BOTH SIDES by Nicklas Bendtner with Rune Skyum-Nielsen, published by Monoray on October 8 at £12.99.
To order a copy for £11.04 (offer valid to 16/10/20), go to www.mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £15.
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