Newcastle United are set to sign Luuk de Jong on loan from Borussia Monchengladbach. We take a closer look at the Dutch forward.

  • By Michael Bell
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de jong gdfDe Jong was originally born in Switzerland, but moved to Netherlands with his older brother Siem, and Dutch parents at the age of four. Both brothers joined De Graafchap, but while Luuk stayed at the club, Siem was snapped up by Dutch giants Ajax.

After working his way through the youth side of De Graafschap, De Jong made his first team debut at the age of 18, coming on as a substitute in a 2-0 defeat to NAC Breda.

With De Graafschap relegated from the Eredivisie, De Jong was snapped up by FC Twente for around €850,000, with the youngster becoming back-up to forward Blaise Nkufo. Then Twente boss Steve McClaren led the club to their first ever Eredivisie title in the 2009/10 season, with De Jong scoring seven goals in his first year at the club.

This was an impressive tally for the 18-year-old with 14 of his 20 appearances coming from the bench, and also on the right wing, instead of his now recognised position of centre forward.

The following year, De Jong was once again second choice forward, with Marko Janko, McClarens prefered option, but the Dutchman showed his versatility by starring on the right wing or as an advanced attacking midfielder. Although Twente couldn’t repeat their title win, finishing second to Ajax, De Jong put in an impressive season, netting 12, and assisting 12 times in 32 Eredivisie matches.

Twente had a disappointing start to the 2011/12 season, missing out on the Champions League after a play-off defeat to Benfica, despite De Jong netting in a first leg 2-2 draw. In the league, De Jong was on fire, netting seven goals in the opening 10 games,  and this form earned him his first cap for Netherlands, coming on as a late substitute against his native Switzerland.

De Jong had transformed over the past two years into the typical number 9 forward, using his height (6″2) to control aerial battles, whilst combining excellent technique with a powerful left foot. Often compared to the likes of Klaas jan Huntelaar, and Ruud van Nistelrooy in his final year at Twente, De Jong was equally capable of being a poacher, or a deep lying target man.

The 11/12 season proved to be the forwards final year in the Eredivisie, with De Jong’s record of 25 goals in 31 league appearances putting a number of clubs around Europe on red alert. A place in Netherlands Euro 2012 squad, also elevated the player’s reputation, although De Jong failed to make an appearance at the tournament.

Against the wishes of coach Steve McClaren, who believed De Jong was not ready to star for a big club having only played one season as a full time striker, De Jong moved to the Bundesliga, and Borussia Monchengladbach, who paid €12 million for the then 21-year-old.

The decision to move to Gladbach was made after consultation with his father, who acts as his advisor, and the fact its only an hour or so drive back to his family home in Enschede, made the move a no-brainer for the family man.

Gladbach wanted to use De Jong as a spearhead to mount their Champions League challenge, but the striker couldn’t have got off to a worse start, netting an own goal in only his second appearance in a quailifier against Dynamo Kiev. The Ukrainian side eventually knocked the club out 4-3 on aggregate, and the clubs Champions League campaign was over before it even began.

A poor start to the league campaign raised the pressure on De Jong, who netted only once in his opening five games, of which Gladbach only won once.  Fans were beginning to question the forward, and after only seven league appearances, De Jong suffered an injury which kept him out for two months.

Four goals in eight games on his return indicated that the forward was beginning to show signs of returning to the form he showed at Twente, but at the end of the season coach Lucian Favre dropped De Jong to the bench.

A disappointing U-21 Championships in the summer got the season off to a poor start, while Favre started the season with Max Kruse as his first choice striker, with Raffael and Peniel Mlapa also ahead in the pecking order. A summer transfer was rumoured with a return to the Eredivisie an option, but De Jong was defiant, and determined to make himself a success in the Bundesliga.

However De Jong has been forced to settle for appearances from the bench, with the striker only appearing for a total of 85 minutes this season, in which he has failed to hit a shot on target, let alone score. The final straw appeared to be on Friday, when De Jong warmed up for the whole of the second half, but was not brought on in a 2-0 defeat.

Moving to Germany has not worked out but injuries, lack of chances, and tactics not suited to his abilities have all contributed to De Jong leaving Gladbach.

Newcastle United have now stepped in, and will offer a chance for De Jong to get his career back on track, and maybe even make a late run for a World Cup spot in the summer.

The striker’s strength and technical ability make him the perfect match for a Premier League side, and if Alan Pardew can get him back to playing like he did at Twente, then Newcastle have a hugely talented forward on their hands. There is a reason why he was once regarded as the future number nine of the Dutch national side, and one bad year does not take away his undoubted talent.

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