Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp claims his former club turned down the opportunity to sign his son, Mitchell, on account of his age after he performed well while during a trial spell late last year.
Like his father, Mitchell spent the formative stage of his career in his native Holland but always harboured the ambition to test his metal in England.
After nine years with Almere City, Bergkamp Snr eventually encouraged his son to follow his dream following a chance meeting with his old strike partner Ian Wright.
‘It all started with Ian Wright coming here (in late 2019),’ Bergkamp told The Athletic.
‘He basically said, ‘Why is Mitchel not trying in England? Why is he not trying it at Arsenal?’ It got the ball rolling and in the end, there was a trial (at Arsenal) planned last season.’
Bergkamp maintains his son performed well over the course of his period at London Colney but the Gunners opted not to take up the opportunity to recruit the 22-year-old.
‘Only his age stopped Arsenal from continuing with the process, because he did well there in the training sessions,’ added Bergkamp.
‘It was important to see if he could cope with a higher level, we already knew that (he would be able to) in the family.’
Bergkamp Jnr subsequently benefited from Arsenal’s close relationship with near neighbours Watford and signed a six-month contract to play for their Under-23s until the end of the season.
‘It was all positive reactions. Then, during the Christmas period, we were a little bit unsure what would happen; there was Brexit too, so it’s not easy for young players to come to England anymore, but Mitchel’s upbringing was a big advantage. Watford were happy, we were happy, and it was a great opportunity for him.’
Mitchell is yet to feature for the first team but has been a regular for the Under-23s and last Friday he featured against Swansea in a Watford side which also included the sons of Maurico Pochettino and Dennis Wise.