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Nigel De Jong: Fear Factor

He’s fearless. A defensive midfielder with great passing skills, but no fear. Taking on opponents of every size and ability with the same intensity and drive. Milan fans rejoiced when they heard he was coming. Finally, a quality signing this summer. In a position we desperately needed. And although, according to Allegri, he is still acclimating to Milan, he has already proven himself worthy of the Milan jersey. But with a reputation that gives our midfield a Fear Factor.

Thumbs up for you, too! Welcome!

Nigel De Jong is a 27 year-old Dutch midfielder who plays for the Netherlands National Team. He spent his youth career and first four years of his senior career with them, too. His first senior team goal was in a Champions League match. Like I said, he’s fearless. Nerves of steel, and skills sharp as a knife. In his second season at the senior level, he became a starter. In 2004-05, he was named Ajax Player of the Season.

In January of 2006, he moved on to Hamburger SV, where he made 66 appearances over three years time. His career there was up and down, like one week he scored the winning goal to defeat Bayern Munich for the first time in the Allianz Arena, the next week he got his first ever (and only!) red card for a second yellow. He also had a knee injury that kept him from playing for the national team in the 2006 World Cup.

He may have been brought here just to rein in Robinho...

In January of 2009, he made the move to Manchester City. His transfer fee was reportedly €18m. Mark Hughes used him as an enforcer in the midfield, which is something they had been lacking. As Roberto Mancini became manager, he also saw De Jong’s importance and he became a regular starter. He made 104 appearances for the club over three years’ time.

De Jong is tough, great at tackling, and unforgiving when it comes to defending in general. He can actually play in the back line, too, if necessary, but his preferred spot is defensive midfielder. In his own words, "My game is based on giving 200%, making tackles and protecting the defense. When I get the ball I give it to guys who are more creative than me. I suppose you could say that I'm the water carrier. I don't mind that description!" He is the kind of teammate every defender wants in front of them and everyone else wants behind them, supporting them.

Boss.

Most people think he is a thug for three high profile incidents – two of which caused broken bones, and one which happened on the world stage. He was not sent off for these incidents, miraculously for him. I think if he had been sent off, people would have been more forgiving, as they have been with other players who have had similar track records. But I think his reputation stems from the fact that he wasn’t punished. And that is not his fault. The truth is, for a defensive midfielder, De Jong’s tackles are typically clean and he has a smaller than average rate of cautions. And he runs. A lot. He works very, very hard, he is a smart teammate, and has a great attitude. So unless your name is Stuart Holden, Xabi Alonso, or Hatem Ben Arfa, consider the big picture before you judge him.

His nicknames include “The Terrier” (typically very active and fearless dogs) and also “The Lawnmower.” If the connotations behind those nicknames don’t instill fear in the hearts of our opponents then they are in for a big surprise. Because if he doesn’t dispossess and/or tackle them, he will frustrate them with his passing. In the 2010-11 season in the Premier League, he had the highest pass completion rate in the league, at 90% completion. Again, his teammates love him.

He's just a normal family guy.... in a tux...

In his personal life, he is married and has two beautiful children. He also likes to “pimp your ride.” Yes, he owns his own car customizing company that pimps out the cars of the rich and famous. So if his teammates don’t already love him enough for his mad skills, they’ll love him for hooking them up with a sweet ride. Another interesting factoid is that he apparently loves Angry birds, and is known to play it before games in the dressing room. Okay, so maybe that doesn’t make him feared, but it does show he’s human.

Nigel De Jong is Milan’s newest Fear Factor. Whether opponents fear being dispossessed by him, being tackled by him, or have that feeling of playing “Keep Away” as a child because of his amazing passing skills, they are afraid. Or at least they should be. Milan, on the other hand, should be very grateful he is on our team, not the other team. Not because of his reputation for nasty tackles, but because we have one of the smartest, most hard working, and skilled defensive midfielders around. Did I mention he’s a nice guy? Oh yeah, that’s not scary. But a belated welcome to Milan, De Jong. We’re as happy to have you as our opponents are frightened of you.


This post inspired by the music of Metallica