The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘I know that the end is in sight’

London: Dennis Bergkamp has urged Arsenal to allow him to see out the end of his career with a final season at Highbury.

Bergkamp though has no desire to continue playing in a team not challenging for honours, meaning he is unlikely to return to his native Holland to continue his career and has little obvious desire to enter management.

Bergkamp’s Arsenal contract expires at the end of this season and speculation is rife that the club could at best ask him to take a pay-cut to stay on because of their financial restrictions.

The Dutchman will leave any such negotiations until after this weekend’s FA Cup final but Arsene Wenger has already made it clear he would like him to remain at the club. Bergkamp, who turned 34 last weekend, is hoping that will be enough to persuade the board to release the funds to keep him.

“I still haven’t found any reason to retire. I still feel great physically and mentally, and basically I just love playing football — and playing for Arsenal,” Bergkamp said.

“If anything, the buzz I get from looking forward to playing is more now. It is almost as if I am enjoying football more and more at this stage of my career. Maybe it is because I know it will not last forever.

“At 24, you think you can go on and on, but I know that the end is in sight. So now I really appreciate what I have and I try to enjoy every day.

“You never know what the future will bring but I just love playing football. I am comfortable with having another year and I understand the boss is also happy with that.

“He told me, although not in as many words, that he wants me to stay but in this situation you have to wait.

“If I play on, as I hope to, it will be at Arsenal though. We have really built something here. It is really growing and you get to a level when you can say this is a big difference to seven or eight years ago.

“I always said that Arsenal would be my finishing point and I still can’t see a reason why that cannot happen.”

If Bergkamp is not offered a new deal by Arsenal, the FA Cup final could be his last high-level competitive fixture, but he feels there is still one goal left to be achieved in his career.

He told Arsenal’s official magazine: “Hopefully I will get one more chance in the Champions League. I am ready for it as it is something special.

“You must not forget how important it is to win the title, and it will be great to go all the way in the Champions League with Arsenal.”

Bergkamp was especially frustrated at the way Arsenal went out of the competition at the second group stage this season despite having taken four points from their opening two games.

Draws at home and away against Ajax cost them dearly, as did their final defeat in Valencia, where they lost in the quarter finals two years earlier. “It is not a mystery as such but the most disappointing thing for me and the team were the two matches with Ajax. Apart from the first half-hour at home, we never played to our potential,” he added.

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