Born: 27 August 1984, Peterborough, England
Age in 2005: 20
Had David Bentley played for some of the best teams in the world, gained 100 more caps for England, married a famous pop singer, rubbed shoulders with royalty, made his own documentary, had a film named after him, and become a global ambassador for sport, he could quite easily be mistaken for David Beckham.
He was, after all, meant to be Becks’ natural heir for the number seven jersey in an England shirt. In 2008, every Tom, Dick and Steve McClaren believed it. But it was never to be. While Beckham recently attended a wedding for the sixth in line to the British throne, David Bentley was shaking up yet another Espresso Martini for a drunk Brit in Marbella.
(Above: David Bentley facing off against Arsenal’s new David Bentley, Cesc Fabregas)
The young maverick began his career at the age of just 16 with north London club Arsenal, after signing his first professional contract around the same time as other greats, such as Dennis Bergkamp’s natural heir Francis Jeffers.
Wenger clearly saw something in the nippy winger as he allowed him to play once before shipping him off on loan to Norwich City, before politely but firmly guiding him towards the exit door and into the warm embrace of Mark Hughes at Blackburn Rovers.
Here he linked up with Francis Jeffers who, it turned out, was more Jason Roberts’ natural heir than the legendary Arsenal goalscorer Bergkamp and picked up three goals in his first campaign. More seasons like this were to follow, as Bentley thrived at Ewood Park, reflecting in an interview some years later: “It was mental at Blackburn. We played golf.”
(Above: DB mid falling out of love with the game)
During his time at the Lancashire club, they achieved a sixth place finish where the young Englishman’s performances didn’t go unnoticed and he got a call from England manager Steve McClaren to play in some upcoming friendlies. However, it turned out that the call was not from McClaren, but instead a prank dreamed up by genius prankster Robbie Savage pretending to be the England boss. Asked how he felt about it, Bentley stated: “I thought it was Steve.”
Later DB really was called up to Fabio Capello’s England squad, at the same time that a number of clubs began vying for his signature. Yet after just losing Craig Bellamy to Liverpool, Mark Hughes declared that Bentley had absolutely no escape route from Blackburn – home to the A6078 ring road and Bee Centre – and would likely never be allowed to leave. It’s unclear whether this played a role in the winger declaring that he would quite like to quit football forever.
Then, in a turn of events that saw Hughes become Man City manager, and Francis Jeffers attempt to become someone’s successor at Sheffield Wednesday, Tottenham Hotspur signed Bentley for £15m in 2008.
(Above: Bentley remembering the time he was supposed to be the new Beckham)
Although spending five years at the club, unlike at Rovers where he was known for his footballing skills, at Spurs Bentley took Savage’s mantle as a bit of a prankster when pouring water over boss Harry Redknapp during an interview. David was dressed in only his shirt and a pair of pants.
He played in a couple of friendlies for the England national team before it became abundantly clear that unlike Beckham, the only thing Bentley was bending were the rules when he snuck a Big Mac into the team’s hotel and called Capello ‘Postman Pat‘ under his breathe, this time fully clothed.
However, the cheeky chappy from Peterborough was falling out of love with the game that had given him everything. It had all become about the money, he claimed, and so went on loan to Birmingham City, West Ham and oil-rich FC Rostov, in an attempt to take football back to its roots. It failed to inspire, and Bentley ultimately retired at the age of 29.
(Above: A smoke bomb during a game for Birmingham fails to re-ignite The Bent’s passion)
Where is he now?
Following his retirement, Bentley has become a jack of all trades, plying his hand at everything from flooring to cocktail making. He’s currently working on his biggest project – learning basic Spanish – having lived in Spain for five years.
What did he say?
“There are three things that people talk to me about when I meet them: the goal for Tottenham against Arsenal, chucking water over Harry Redknapp and kicking a ball into a skip.”