From pants to paintings! The renaissance of Nicklas Bendtner as the on-loan Juventus striker speaks exclusively to Sportsmail
22:50 GMT, 19 November 2012
Not too long ago Nicklas Bendtner was paying 80,000 for a pair of green underpants, so it's refreshing to discover the more sophisticated way he has found to spend his money.
From his favourite Damien Hirst painting to the three sculptures he has added to his growing collection, Bendtner has developed a passion for modern art.
Considering some of his antics during an eight-year career in England, some people could be forgiven for struggling to accept the colourful and at times controversial Arsenal striker as a Renaissance Man now he has moved to Italy on loan for the season with Juventus.
Italian job: Bendtner is spending the season on loan at Juventus
But sitting in a cafe close to his apartment in an upmarket area of Turin, cradling a double expresso, 24-year-old Bendtner certainly looks and sounds the part.
'Some of my friends in London are in the art world and they introduced me to it slowly,' he says.
'There are always new things happening in that world, new artists coming up, so it's something you can never get tired of if you understand what I mean. The new thing I like are the graffiti artists, I think they're quite interesting.
Moving on: It seems unlikely that the Denmark international will play for Arsenal again
'I have seven paintings and three sculptures which I'm really proud of. My favourite is probably the first one I bought which is the Damien Hirst. I love it. I can look at it all day long. It represents me in sort of a way because I can see something of me in it. That keeps me looking at it and finding new things. 'It's nice when you get to know a person and find a new depth to them. Each time you meet there's something new and interesting cropping up.'
The painting is particularly significant to Bendtner because he believes people stopped looking for anything new in him a long time ago.
'I got a bit stuck in England,' he says. 'At times I felt I was misunderstood and people had sort of boxed me off.
That's pants: Bendtner was fined 80,000 by UEFA for this celebration at Euro 2012
'Everyone will have an opinion of me but very few know what I'm like. A lot of things have been written about me and taken out of proportion. Nicklas said this, Nicklas said that. No matter how many times I try to clear it up, people never seem to let it go. That's what I mean by the painting.
'I felt it was important to come to a new country and get a new start; get my career going again. 'Italy has such great romance. it's very beautiful. They have an art fair in Venice which is amazing, and Florence. They have so many great painters – not that I'll be able to afford them in my lifetime.'
This could come across as pretentious but it doesn't. Bendtner is polite, engaging and genuinely passionate about his art. Not many footballers would invite you up to their apartment to show off a painting.
Struggle: Bendtner failed to impress at Arsenal before being shipped out on a season-long loan to Sunderland
Ironically, one of the streets leading to it is called Via Arsenale. His time in North London was punctuated by loan spells at Birmingham then last season at Sunderland, and it now seems unlikely that he will play for the Gunners again.
Bendtner's Arsenal career went into decline following a serious car crash in September 2009 when his Aston Martin collided with a tree on the way to training. The incident led to a persistent groin injury that later required surgery and loss of form. It also caused the fun-loving Dane to re-assess his lifestyle.
'It set me back a huge deal,' he admits. 'When I finally got over that I was still part of Arsenal but not as I was before.
Slow start: Bendtner missed the first five games after arriving in Turin a little overweight
'Everything just hit me at once. I went through a complete transition and changed everything in my life after that.
'I'm still young but when I was younger I maybe didn't think about what I had, what a big deal it was, and what you could do if you really put your mind to it.
'Yes that [drinking and parties] was part of it. There are other aspects which are a bit more personal that I don't want to get into.'
Bendtner's tempestuous relationship with Baroness Caroline Luel-Brockdorff – they were dubbed Denmark's Posh and Becks – was one of the casualties. It did, however, produce their baby son Nicholas, and fatherhood has also played its part in altering his outlook on the world. He is in the process of launching a new charity, Rich Without Money, in aid of children with terminal diseases.
Dutch of class: The Denmark ace can sympathise with Van Persie after joining Manchester United
'When you experience the birth of your child, it's amazing what happens,' he says. 'You change in your way of thinking.
'If you draw a circle and put arrows out there saying “this is in your life, and this is what you really need” there is actually very little you need to be happy.
'It's always been something I wanted but I probably wasn't as prepared as I thought I was. This last year it's just started to happen.'
It would be fair to say that is not a completely changed man, however. Less than a year ago Bendtner felt compelled to issue a public apology following a series of off-the-field scrapes. And then, of course, there were those green underpants.
They caused a bit of a stir at Euro 2012 when he hitched down his shorts after scoring a second goal against Portugal to reveal the name of a well-known Irish bookmaker. The company reimbursed him for the 80,000 fine from UEFA but could do nothing about a one-match ban.
Nor have Bendtner's opinions mellowed with age. He is still typically forthright about the club he left behind now and the departures of other Arsenal players like Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song. If Sunderland could be seen as a step down after Arsenal, then Juventus certainly are not.
'I don't have a bad word to say about Arsenal but if you had to compare the trophies then Juventus are like Manchester United,' he says.
Arty impression: Bendtner doesn't have a bad word to say about Arsenal
'You feel it's maybe even a bigger step than Arsenal. 'I thought it would be good for me to come here to a big club with big expectations, sort of how it was at Arsenal when I first went there. With all the tradition, if you can make it here and score goals then you can make it anywhere.
'Arsenal have sold off a lot of stars and not replaced them whereas Juventus would not sell one star without bringing in another straightaway. That's what has kept them on top of the pile.
Exclusive: The Dane was speaking to Sportsmail
'From what I'm hearing, some of the players left because they didn't feel Arsenal still had the same ambitions as they did.
'I can't blame people for wanting to go to United or Barcelona. Robin has been brilliant since he's been at United. He was the main man as soon as Cesc left. He became captain and took the responsibility. Everybody could see he had that ability at Arsenal and now he's improved because he probably thought he could get better at United.
'I feel that if I was still there I would be able to compete for a place. Despite what happened to me it's still a great club and I still feel for some people there. I wouldn't say that I can never ever go back but at the moment it's not on my mind.'
Some might say that Bendtner was fortunate to join the Italian champions after a spell at Sunderland that brought eight goals in 28 games. Juve's sporting director Giuseppe Marotta even admitted that he was not their first choice target, and he missed the first five games after arriving in Turin a little overweight.
But as the Italians prepare to meet Chelsea at Juventus Stadium on Tuesday night, Bendtner is back in shape and happy again.
'I've settled in quite well,' he says. 'The hardest thing has been that none of the coaches apart from one speak any English so it's been difficult for me to communicate with the staff and the players.
'I have a teacher but I'm getting a new one because we didn't get on – she didn't speak English or Italian very well!
'I've never trained so hard in my life. It's a very different set-up to England. Here they like you to come in every day. It's just the Italian way, not just Juventus, and something you adapt to.
'Since coming here I've literally had two days off in two months, and I've spent them with family.'
He might have new interests in life but Bendtner is still prepared to suffer for his art.