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10th Oct 2020

Nicklas Bendtner once drunkenly gambled away £400,000 in 90 minutes

Simon Lloyd

“My bank account is overdrawn and I’m bankrupt if my luck doesn’t turn”

For a brief while, there was hope that a young Nicklas Bendtner might blossom into a top striker at Arsenal. After showing promise in the club’s youth sides, he had made his first team debut at just 17 in the League Cup in 2005.

Though he went on to play in excess of 100 games for the Gunners, he failed to hold down a regular starting berth for long enough under Arsene Wenger.

By the summer of 2011, his Gunners career was beginning to slide away from him and a loan move to Sunderland was on the horizon. It was around this time he found himself drunkenly gambling away £400,000 at the roulette wheel of a London casino in the early hours of one morning.

It’s an incident he mentions in his autobiography, Both Sides; one that he has now described during an interview with The Guardian as a much-needed “wakeup call”.

“I’m way too drunk to sit at a table,” Bendtner remembers. “That much I get. But roulette is a different matter. Red, black, red, black. How hard can it be?

“After 90 minutes I’ve lost £400,000. Money I don’t have. My bank account is overdrawn and I’m bankrupt if my luck doesn’t turn.

“I stagger into the loos and splash water on my face. Then I find a cashier and get another £50,000 of chips.”

Bendtner was incredibly lucky to be able to claw back £380,000 of the money he had gambled away before leaving the casino, but the experience left its mark.

“It was too risky – even for me,” he explains. “It was the wakeup call that helped break that spell. I’ve never been a guy who cares about money as a way of showing off. At first it was more about the fun and being with people you like.”

By that stage in his career, Bendtner had suffered injuries, something which he believed contributed to his increasingly regular visits to the casino.

“When I was injured, and couldn’t get the excitement from that absolute living-on-the-edge feeling on the pitch, gambling gave me adrenaline. Obviously the higher the risk, the higher the adrenaline. So you go for high stakes.”

Having looked back at the early years of his career as part of writing his book, the now 32-year-old openly speaks of his regret at not handling things differently as a young player.

“There’s definitely some regret I didn’t take my career in a more positive way,” he admits. “Looking back definitely gave me upset because there are moments which were very hurtful and difficult to talk about. But I couldn’t just write another sports biography where I was praising myself.”

After returning from loan at Sunderland, he signed another season-long deal with Juventus before a permanent move to Wolfsburg in 2014. Though he returned to English football on loan at Nottingham Forest in 2016, his career has failed to hit the heights some might have expected it to.