Eriksen: Bergkamp taught me how to be a playmaker

Eriksen joined Ajax when he was 16

Eriksen joined Ajax when he was 16

CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN has highlighted the role Dennis Bergkamp played in his evolution into one of the world’s finest playmakers.

Eriksen gave a playmaking masterclass for Denmark on Tuesday night as he scored a sublime hat-trick in the 5-1 demolition of the Republic of Ireland. The 25-year-old has also, once again, been Spurs' linchpin this season as they challenge domestically and in Europe.

Before joining the North London club in 2013, Eriksen spent five formative years at Ajax, which is where he came into contact with Arsenal legend Bergkamp.

The Dutchman had started working with the Amsterdam club - where he himself had come through the ranks - as a trainee coach six months before Eriksen's arrival. This is interesting because it shows the benefit of:

  1. Expert tuition: Bergkamp was 37 and had retired from playing two years earlier. This put him in the almost unique position of being able to share the skills and insights of a superstar player.
  2. Humility: The Dutchman was wealthy and one of the finest players of his generation. Still he was willing to work as a trainee coach, eventually progressing to the Under-12s and then the Under-19s. He wanted to learn his coaching craft and help young players.

Over to Eriksen, who still remembers the sessions he had with Bergkamp and Wim Jonk, the former Ajax and Holland midfielder who had become technical skills coach.

“In my first year at Ajax, we had sessions with Dennis Bergkamp and Wim Jonk,” he told Sky Sports. “We worked on movement, learning how to measure runs and then passing the ball to exactly the right place at exactly the right time.

“Even then you could see Dennis’s charisma and confidence on the ball. He always knew how to take his first touch and where the ball needed to end up afterwards.

“I learned a lot from watching Dennis and from working with him. It helped me when I made it through to the first team.”

As a teenager with Danish side Odense Boldklub, Eriksen went for trials with Chelsea, AC Milan and Barcelona, but opted to join Ajax in October 2008 when he was 16. He chose well.

Ajax managed that difficult balance of patience and opportunity. Initially, Eriksen dropped down to the Under-17s, having played Under-19s football before, because Ajax wanted him to learn the language and culture in a relaxed environment.

“Within three or four months he spoke perfect Dutch and it is a similar culture, but the thing you need to adapt first is to play well,” explained Frank de Boer, who was Under-19 coach (and went on to become first-team coach).

In January 2010, when Eriksen was 17, he made his first-team debut under Martin Jol.

“I was training the Under-19s and could directly say to the manager: ‘you can take Christian already,’” de Boer remembered. “He might have more to come physically but he is ready mentally.”

His progress after that was continual, culminating in that majestic performance on Tuesday night. The best could be yet to come in Russia next summer though.

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