Nicklas Bendtner, we hardly knew ye

Nicklas Bendtner is looking for a new club after Wolfsburg decided to terminate his contract more than a year early.

Whether we like it or not (we don’t), the Danish striker is inextricably linked with the primary subject matter of this site, so it’s about time we gave him a post of his own.

The Dane made his Arsenal debut in the 2005-06 season, wearing 33 – not that out of the ordinary. For 06-07, he was on loan at Birmingham City, for whom he had number 27 and then, on his return to the Emirates for 07-08, he was given number 26, an indication of his rise up the pecking order.

He kept 26 for 2008-09 but, on the eve of the following season, it was announced that he would change – to 52. The badly-written press release didn’t give much real info:

Before [the season] starts I wanted to change my squad number from 26 which I’ve obviously had for a number of seasons now. I chose to move to 52 because it’s a special number to me personally, and I hope that it brings me good luck for the new season.

I appreciate that a good number of fans have bought their kits for 2009/10 already with names and numbers printed up so I’d like to personally cover the cost of replacing anyone’s shirt that has my previous number. It means a lot to see supporters wearing your name and number, and I want to ensure people aren’t inconvenienced by the change.

It was never revealed how much he had to pay to reimburse fans who had bought ‘Bendtner 26’ shirts, but there was certainly never any fear of him going bankrupt. Later that season, though, his own official website offered a different reason for the change:

Nicklas Bendtner plays with the number 52 on his back, but actually his favourite number is 7. But when he joined the Arsenal team, the number 7 was already taken by the Czech Tomas Rosicky. So when Nicklas Bendtner was presented with the opportunity to change his old number 26 before the season 2009/10, he chose the number 52 because 5 and 2 equals 7. He also thinks that 52 sound good.

At the time when Nicklas Bendtner changed his number, some fans had already purchased the new Arsenal shirt with his old number. And Nicklas Bendtner was not going to disappoint these fans. So, he invited them to return the shirts, and he would pay for a new one. That story travelled the world.

The last sentence perhaps gives some insight into how Bendtner was once off the charts in a self-confidence test. Why he preferred 7 to the traditional centre-forward’s number of 9, we don’t know, but it was perhaps the reason why he wore 17 when he joined Juventus on loan in 2012-13 (after continuing to wear 52 when with Sunderland in 11-12).

He was back at Arsenal for 2013-14 and, as Arsène Wenger engaged in his usual transfer-market dithering – pulling out of an almost-confirmed move for Gonzalo Higuaín – Bendtner was the back-up to Olivier Giroud, but now wore 23. He even scored two goals in his limited game-time, but eventually tried Wenger’s patience too much, enjoying the night-life at home in Denmark when he should have been recuperating from injury.

Wolfsburg provided him with another chance, and also another opportunity for numerical trickery. The reason for him taking number 3 in Germany was put down to his mother’s influence. Unfortunately, Mama Bendtner’s choice ended up signifying the total league goals he would score across 2014-15 and 15-16.

Where to, and which number, next?

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