The Dane has become better known for his endless sound bites than his ability in front of goal and must now produce the goods for Wolfsburg or face an uncertain future
It’s been five years since Nicklas Bendtner gave an interview he should but probably doesn’t regret.
“Within the next five years I want to be the top goalscorer in the Premier League and known as a world-class striker,” he said back in 2009.
He was 22 at the time – young, but certainly not short on confidence.
At the same time most young men of the same age are plotting escape routes out of their overdrafts, the Bendtner myth was already well established.
A year earlier, the former Arsenal man was involved in a famous on-field bust-up with strike partner Emmanuel Adebayor during a Carling Cup tie against north London rivals Tottenham.
Off the field, he had already succeeded in charming the 34-year-old Baroness Caroline Luel-Brockdorff, a member of the Danish royal family and a millionaire in her own right.
However, Bendtner’s scoring powers have deserted him where it matters most and five years on his own lofty predictions have fallen some way short of reality.
On Thursday night the 26-year-old will line up against Everton at Goodison Park in the group stage of the Europa League, but in the green and white of Wolfsburg rather than the red of Arsenal.
Ten years after arriving in London as a 16-year-old, Bendtner left the Gunners on a free transfer this summer, opting for a fresh start with a club who finished fifth in the Bundesliga last season.
His legacy at the Emirates will largely consist of the troubled events and outlandish sound bites he has become best known for, rather than for his goalscoring exploits (he scored just 47 goals in 171 games in red and white) – not quite the eventuality he once envisaged.
But just where did it all go wrong?
Arsenal fans, of course, will tell you the answer lies very much at the feet of Bendtner and upon closer inspection of his roll call of trials and tribulations, it’s difficult to disagree.
For all of his early promise – he scored 11 times in 42 games as an 18-year-old on loan at Birmingham City in the Championship back in 2006-2007; he never came close to building upon that start back at his parent club.
The problem is, such has been the persistent strength of his voice, you always believed that at some point he would deliver upon his promise to develop into the player he remains insistent he will become.
“Trust me it will happen,” he said in that same interview in 2009.
“As I have done before and will do so again, I will sit at the other end and laugh at those people when it is all done.”
At international level, at least, there have been glimpses of his talent. A tally of 24 goals in 60 appearances for Denmark is a strike rate comparable with many of the game’s top strikers, but he has so far failed to replicate that output at domestic level.
Fingers have also been pointed to his conduct off the field. In May 2009 Bendtner was pictured stumbling out of a London nightclub with his jeans around his ankles hours after Arsenal were beaten by Manchester United in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
While the high speed car crash that wrote off his prized Aston Martin and could easily have ended his life four months later was far from his fault, his decision to replace it with an identical €200,000 model projected an image of a spoilt child with too many toys at his disposal.
Then there was his conviction for drink driving in March 2012 on the same night his mother was given the all clear following lengthy treatment for cancer – another ill-thought action borne out of the misguided notion of the invincibility of youth. The Dane seems to attract trouble when automobiles and alcohol are involved and earlier this year his name was plastered across the press after an alleged, drunken row with a taxi driver in Copenhagen.
In between those high profile misdemeanours Bendtner’s progress hasn’t so much stalled but gone into reverse. He spent the entire 2012-13 season on loan at Juventus but failed to score in nine appearances for the Serie A champions.
He returned to England last term as something of a laughing stock, in a land where missed chances and errant quotes are quickly recycled into comical vines and memes, in a social media soap opera he has starred in all too frequently.
And so as he readies himself to set foot on English soil once again, he finds himself quite possibly in the last chance saloon in his quest to come good on those promises of five years ago, though you suspect there’s little chance he would agree.