Dennis Bergkamp and the art of beautiful simplicity

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Four years after 2001: A Space Odyssey was branded hypnotically dull by film critics, Stanley Kubrick reflected on the legacy of his masterpiece. The problem, he said, was that 2001 was too original. It didn’t conform to the usual dogma we rely on to break down what the extraordinary actually is. The classical music danced where there should have been dialogue, the new-age special effects were just too disturbingly real and, yes, the sun broke over a black monolith, but where were the bloody aliens?

In football, logic has always told us that greatness can be compartmentalised by medals, scores and statistics. But, every so often, a player comes along who refuses to conform.

Dennis Bergkamp might have notched fewer goals than James Beattie and won half the number of Premier League titles as Phil Neville. He may never have broken records or incited new eras in the way Thierry Henry or Cristiano Ronaldo did during their time in England. But nobody could deny that Bergkamp produced moments of bona fide astonishment, graceful flashes that raised an invisible bar, made football freeze, froth at the mouth, and then speak about them forever.

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