Date: 8th September 2012 at 1:49pm
Written by:

International breaks always give time for pause for thought. Sedgie pays tribute to his absolutely favourite City player of recent years (apart from Pablo Zabaleta, that’s contractual)…

A mate of my mine once referred to popular beat combo AC/DC with the phrase – ‘they only do one song, but they do it very well.’

And that is how I feel about the now sadly departed Nigel de Jong – a touch limited, but boy oh boy, was he good at what he did? Does Kevin Pietersen lack self-awareness?

Iron Nige was not going to dribble the ball 50 yards or dazzle with some feat of trickery. The job description was – if you have the ball, get it to someone who can do more with it asap. And if you don’t have it, do everything you can to get it back asap.

If memory serves, our first sight of him was in that pre-season friendly on a boiling hot day in Hamburg four years ago – also featuring future legend Vincent Kompany. I only wish I’d taken more notice, but I don’t want to be like one of the 20,000 ‘I was there’ types who claim they saw Ver Pistols at the Free Trade Hall in 1976.

Anyway, Kompany was a City player within a few weeks for an absolute bargain £6million, and de Jong followed six months later – for around £18 million – the ‘City tax’ was now being applied by canny selling clubs.

De Jong often claimed in his incredibly articulate and intelligent interviews that he was finding his feet in that first part-season, but you could have fooled us. He could not be included in the squad for the Europa League run – which ended at the hands of his old club – and City missed him. In fact his esteem at Hamburg was shown by a nice reception he and the injured Kompany received – although this toughest of tough-guy footballers looked uneasy with the flowers they gave him.

He survived the transition from Hughes to Mancini, and played in the World Cup final, although I can’t defend that kung-fu ‘tackle’ on Xabi Alonso. But I will defend him over the tackle and subsequent media witch-hunt following the challenge on Hatem Ben Arfa that left him with a broken leg. A tough but never vicious player, de Jong was rightly angry over his demonization, with the Sun’s Neil Custis claiming he had laughed while re-enacting the tackle in training. Custis was banned by the club for a time, and the Sun apologised – but we have long memories.

As for goals, when they did come they were memorable and from long-range. My only gripe with him was his reluctance to pass forward at times, and his injury this time last year gave Mancini a vision of a more attack-minded City that he stuck with. Credit to Nigel for the way he battled back in, and the role he played in the title-winning run at the end of last season.

It seems strange some kind of deal could not be cut to keep him, and didn’t you get the impression the Dutchman did not really want to leave?
So cheers Nigel, you’ll be missed but all the best in Milan.
And I didn’t even say ‘tough-tackling’, ‘combative’, ‘midfield general’…

UPDATED UPCOMING FIXTURES:
all times East Manchester

Sa 15 Sep 15h00 Stoke, The Britannia Stadium, PL
Tu 18 Sep 19h45 Real Madrid, The Bernabeu, CL
Su 23 Sep 16h00 Arsenal, The Etihad, PL
TBC Aston Villa, The Etihad, LC3
Sa 29 Sep 15h00 Fulham, Craven Cottage, PL
We 03 Oct 19h45 Borussia Dortmund, The Etihad, PL
Sa 06 Oct 12h45 Sunderland, The Etihad, PL
Sa 20 Oct 15h00 West Brom, The Hawthorns, PL
We 24 Oct 19h45 Ajax, Amsterdam Arena, CL
Sa 27 Oct 17h30 Swansea City, The Etihad, PL