Nigel de Jong slide-tackled his way out of top-flight European soccer and the Netherlands national team, accumulating red card after red card and causing injuries to plenty of opponents.
Little has changed in de Jong’s style of play since he came to the Los Angeles Galaxy in January. He was suspended three games in April for a gruesome, spikes-up tackle on Darlington Nagbe of the Portland Timbers, which left Nagbe sidelined for two weeks. Then on July 4 he came sweeping in, nowhere near the ball, taking out Vancouver Whitecaps striker Blas Pérez and received a two-game suspension. At this rate it’s only a matter of time before the MLS really brings the hammer down on him.
Galaxy Head Coach Bruce Arena said simply that de Jong “needs to show better judgement.”
What de Jong really needs to do is change his game. He has a worldwide reputation as a dirty player, not for Arjen Robben’s diving or Luis Suarez’s biting but rather for dangerous, disgusting tackles time and time again.
Based on his play and mentality, despite his experience de Jong is expendable. He has no goals or assists this season. Meanwhile, Baggio Hušidić and Jeff Larentowicz, de Jong’s competition, have showcased plenty of ability when they’ve received opportunities. Perhaps they deserve more, and de Jong deserves less.
This is a Galaxy team that can ill-afford to lose players amid a season plagued by injury and international duty. Left back Ashley Cole and winger Robbie Rogers are both currently out with injuries. De Jong will now too have to miss tomorrow’s game against the Houston Dynamo.
De Jong has cost himself so much with his reckless play. A former starter on a World Cup runner-up and Premier League champion with the Netherlands and Manchester City respectively, at 31 he’s at an age where his level of play is very close what it once was, if not the same. He did not come to Los Angeles to enjoy the twilight of his career like Steven Gerrard or David Beckham before him; he came because he had little choice.
He’s cost himself millions of dollars; his salary his now just $500,000, compared to the $7 million he had remaining on his last contract with A.C. Milan.
In his final game with Milan before the club released him, de Jong was sent off as he has been all too often throughout his career.
If de Jong doesn’t change, he may have the same fate with the Galaxy.