Zian Flemming interview: Millwall’s ‘Bermondsey Bergkamp’ who wants to emulate Kevin De Bruyne

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Millwall spent a club-record fee of £1.6m to sign Zian Flemming from Fortuna Sittard (Getty Images)
Millwall spent a club-record fee of £1.6m to sign Zian Flemming from Fortuna Sittard (Getty Images)

Millwall’s record signing Zian Flemming has been dubbed 'the Bermondsey Bergkamp' but would prefer to be ‘The Den's De Bruyne’.

Flemming earned his new nickname after being coached by the Arsenal great as an Under-12 in Ajax's legendary academy but is too young to remember him as a player, and today models his game on the more explosive Kevin De Bruyne.

"The Bermondsey Bergkamp? Yeah, some of the lads said it to me. It's a bit too big of a nickname!" Flemming, 23, tells Standard Sport.

"Everyone knew his name but because we're so young he was a little bit before our time. It was mainly our parents who really had to explain to the young lads, 'Do you really know who this is?' Of course we started looking him up and found footage.

"Right now [the player I most admire] must be De Bruyne. He's amazing. He's also not the old-fashioned No10 like Bergkamp was - more skinny, all smooth and technical. He's a bigger guy, strong, powerful with and without the ball. That's someone I can definitely look at as an example."

Like De Bruyne, 6 foot 4 inch Flemming wants to be both beauty and the beast, and hopes the philosophy he learned during a decade at Ajax and his natural physicality will be the perfect blend for English football and particularly his new club.

"I've learned other things than the Ajax way," said Flemming, who joined FC Zwolle without making a senior appearance for the Eredivisie champions, before spells at NEC Nijmegen and Fortuna Sittard. "It will always be the fundamentals of course, it's how I'm raised. You always carry that with you, but you try to grab the other experiences from different clubs and coaches and add that to your play.

"If you only played at Ajax, you get the best of the best but it might not help you for everywhere you go. You might be raised in the Ajax way when you need to be doing other things.

Flemming is nicknamed the ‘Bermondsey Bergkamp’ but most admires Kevin De Bruyne (Getty Images)
Flemming is nicknamed the ‘Bermondsey Bergkamp’ but most admires Kevin De Bruyne (Getty Images)

"What I heard about [England] is that it's more physical than the Netherlands, and definitely than Ajax. But I was already one of the more physical guys at Ajax and I already developed that kind of play more. I used to be a player in the Netherlands who can really add something to the teams in terms of physical power.

"We [Millwall] have the physicality and power but also players who can bring in the smart and quicker attacks. I want to be one of them. I hope that will come together as a balanced thing. A hard-working but really powerful team [that] everyone hates to play against. But also at certain moments we can change the game with some technical qualities."

What drew Flemming to south London in a record £1.6million deal was the feeling that he was joining a "real" club and he cannot wait to make his bow at The Den for tomorrow's Championship curtain-raiser against Stoke.

Gary Rowett is desperate to guide Millwall into the Championship play-offs this season (Getty Images)
Gary Rowett is desperate to guide Millwall into the Championship play-offs this season (Getty Images)

"What I like about this club is it's real," he said. "The club has a heart, it's just very [much a] people's club. You know what I mean? It's real, there's an authenticity about it and this club might have it more than any other. It's well known.

"It used to be well known in a bad way but the main thing as a player is you want to step into a ground and feel the energy of the crowd supporting you. And I expect a buzzing atmosphere and that's what I heard about as well. It's really loud and nice to play there for us and s**t to play there for the opponent.

"They've been quite stable for the last three years, around 10th place. And basically what the manager [Gary Rowett] said and what the club has said is they just want to make the next step to the play-offs. So that's what we're trying to do."

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