• Dane fears 'unjust' reputation hinders search for new club
• Striker wants fresh start in team where no one knows him
Nicklas Bendtner fears his image has been a hindrance as he searches for a club to relaunch his career away from Arsenal. The Denmark striker, who is in the squad to play England at Wembley on Wednesday, expects to find pastures new in the summer but admits he has had to explain away a reputation where he feels he has been "made into a psychopath" in terms of public perception.
"I have, for example, talked to clubs who say they have heard this or that story about me. So I have to tell them that it is not true. Of all the things that I have been associated with I have only done one thing wrong and that was in Copenhagen [an arrest for drink driving]. Regardless of this I have, bit by bit, in people's eyes been made into a psychopath."
He is hopeful for a new chance and a player who earlier in the season was quoted as seeing the next step of his career at Barcelona or Real Madrid has reset his aims as to what level of club is a likely destination. "I would much rather take a club that is close to the Champions League, as a number five-to-eight in its league, where I know that I play," he told the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten.
"If you are in an industry you surely want to reach the top. I am still the same but I have just not played the games. It hasn't affected my self-esteem, apart from the fact that I can't wait until I get a break – an opportunity. I am just waiting to be unleashed. This is why I don't care about anything else but football. I just want to play football. I'm ready for a new chapter. For something completely different. A fresh start. No team-mates who I know or know of me and the club does not know me and doesn't have those stereotypical notions about me."
Bendtner was due to move to Crystal Palace last summer, only for Arsenal to block a move on deadline day when their search for a replacement striker collapsed. Opportunities since then have been limited. He has started only one Premier League game – against Hull in December, in which he scored in the second minute – and appears to have now slipped behind Yaya Sanogo as Olivier Giroud's deputy.
He feels slightly burned by his experience this season at Arsenal. "Yes, you can probably say that," he says. "I do not feel that I have had a very fair chance." But he is honest enough to admit in some moments he didn't deserve it. "There have been times when I feel like I should have played more and there have been times when I have not been entirely fair to the club. When I was younger I wasn't as professional as I should have been.
"My self-esteem and my confidence as a footballer has not changed but there are not many who know that, as the only picture of me is all about partying and that I am completely indifferent to football. That couldn't be further away from the truth. When I find my right club, I am sure that everything will be all right."
Bendtner's record for Denmark is excellent, with 24 goals from 56 appearance on the international stage.