Goodbye Nigel De Jong… Welcome Javi Garcia.
On January 19th 2009, Manchester City failed in their attempts to bring AC Milan midfielder Kaka to Eastlands in a record-breaking £100 million deal. Kaka’s refusal to be enticed by the mega millions on offer from Sheikh Mansour, saw City and their overwhelmed chairman Gary Cook, become a laughing-stock in European football. On January 21st, Man City did conclude a deal that only kept the laughter coming. Dutch enforcer Nigel de Jong completed an £18 million move to Mark Hughes’ side from German club, Hamburg. What made this transfer so amusing to the rest of Europe was that City could have had him for a mere £3.5million at the most at the end of the season. But then the Dutch pitbull stepped onto the field and no one found this transfer so amusing anymore.
When De Jong arrived, Man City were very much an attacking unit, with a weak defense, spearheaded by a declining Richard Dunne. De Jong’s role was to provided Manchester City with a tough tackling defensive midfielder offering protection to the Manchester City defense. He played this role with aplomb, proving to be a tough as nails machine. Someone who would give his all every time he stepped onto that pitch and no one would ever stand in his way. Almost immediately he became a hero to the legions of City fans, who greatly appreciated his incredible work ethic and desire to win the ball.
De Jong did have his setbacks under Hughes, who never seemed to fully appreciate what the Dutchman brought to the side, Hughes preferring to focus his energy on City’s forward line. The beginning of the 2009/10 season saw de Jong relegated to the bench amid rumours of an immediate exit. Luckily for the club it was Hughes and not de Jong who left, and it was under Hughes’ successor Roberto Mancini that de Jong became an untouchable. Mancini understood that every great team is built on a solid defense and De Jong became an invaluable member of the starting XI, as City improved enormously, both in defence and in the league standings.
Summer 2010 brought the arrival of the hulking Ivorian Yaya Toure. Many City fans believed Toure would play a defensive midfield role, like he had done at Barcelona. With de Jong playing the role of security guard, rarely entering the opposition’s half and joining the attack, it allowed Toure to push further forward and make his now trademark dominating runs from midfield. Toure knew that he had protection behind him and both Toure and De Jong played huge roles in Man City winning the FA Cup at the end of the 2010/11 season, Toure scoring the winning goals in both the Semi Finals and Final.
However, as the 2011/12 season progressed, De Jong became less and less valuable. His desire for a huge new contract played some part in that, but more importantly too did Mancini’s remodelling of the starting XI. Mancini made the team much more attack minded with a plethora of attacking midfield options. He also became more comfortable with having only Barry and Toure back in midfield and employing a more attacking 4-2-3-1. De Jong’s weaknesses became more evident. He cannot pass the ball and control the midfield as sublimely as Gareth Barry, he is not a powerhouse like Toure, and his deficiencies in attack are monumental, as two goals in his three and a half years during his City career demonstrates.
Summer 2012 saw a refusal on De Jong’s part to accept City’s contract terms, and with only a year left on his contract, the dye had been cast. A cut price £3.5million move to AC Milan was inevitable and eventually happened when City were able to identify a replacement on transfer deadline day. The expected backlash from City fans occurred, who took to message boards and social networking sites to express their frustration and anger at the sale of one of their most treasured players, but Mancini and co made the right decision, and with the arrival of his replacement, they must be applauded.
Football teams cannot be decided on sentimentality, and despite De Jong’s enduring popularity with fans, there are players out there who are much better than him, his replacement a case in point. Javi Garcia arrives from Benfica for what appears a bargain fee of £18million and with an impressive reputation. Garcia came through at Real Madrid, and like so many Madrid youngsters of his generation, had to look elsewhere for regular first team football, a steady stream of Galacticos blocking their entry into the first team.
It has been at Benfica that Garcia has quietly emerged as a superb football player. Comfortable at centre back or defensive midfield, Garcia is far more comfortable on the ball and better in possession than De Jong, and he is also not afraid to throw his 6’2 frame around either. He was instrumental in helping eliminate Manchester United from the 2011/12 Champions League group stages and at 25, can mature and realise his full potential in the first team of the English Champions. Mancini spent most of the summer trying to prise Javi Martinez away from Athletic Bilbao, and whilst he failed, he managed to get an almost identical player at half the price.
You can follow me on Twitter @SamuelJR91
Follow the site on Twitter: @Football247Now for the latest football news site content and much more!