One that got away – Luuk de Jong
I can’t have been the only Newcastle United fan that watched on with astonishment earlier this year, as former loanee, Luuk De Jong, scored three goals in two games to lead Sevilla past Manchester United and Inter Milan to win the Europa League.
It was quite amazing to see a player who never looked like troubling the scorers during his time at St James Park, score against two of the biggest clubs in European football and win man of the match in the final.
His success on one of the highest stages of European football left me reflecting on the player that we saw in 12 brief appearances in a black and white shirt in the 2013-14 season, and whether De Jong now joins the long list of players who slipped through our fingers and went on to bigger and better things.
Looking back on De Jong’s career, 2013-14 was undoubtedly the worst season of an otherwise pretty successful career, and it seems perhaps that he simply joined Newcastle at the wrong time.
With 59 goals in 120 appearances for FC Twente, which had seen him win a Dutch league title under the management of Steve McClaren, had attracted the attention of clubs around Europe and it would be Borussia Monchengladbach who secured his signature for a transfer fee of £12.6 million in July 2012.
Although the Bundesliga was a big step up, Luuk De Jong showed signs of promise in his first season in Germany, and although he wasn’t as prolific as he had been for FC Twente, he still managed to score eight goals in 31 appearances.
However, things started to go wrong the following season, when the goals dried up completely. He wasn’t helped by his limited lack of game time under manager Lucien Favre and although he would make 14 appearances for Monchengladbach in 2013-14, his game time amounted to just 122 minutes.
Understandably, De Jong wanted to move and at the end of January 2014 he signed on loan for Alan Pardew’s side until the end of the season.
Looking back, he couldn’t have joined us at a worse time. We were in the middle of a rotten run of form and in his first three games we were thrashed by Sunderland, Chelsea and Tottenham. His lack of game time in the first half of the season with Monchengladbach was evident, and although it was obvious there was talent there, he was clearly lacking the sharpness that comes with playing regular games.
His most impressive performance came as a second striker in a 4-1 victory away at Hull City, a game that would be best remembered for Alan Pardew losing his cool on the touchline and ‘headbutting’ Hull City player David Meyler. However, his spell at the club would ultimately peter out, recording just one assist and failing to trouble the scorers.
It was therefore no surprise that there was little desire on either side to make the move permanent, with De Jong instead heading back to Holland, joining PSV Eindhoven on a five year deal. He was an instinct success on his return to the Eredivisie, scoring 58 goals in 89 games in his first two seasons as PSV won back-to-back league titles. However, he would be slightly less prolific in the following two campaigns, notching just 22 goals in 72 appearances, though he did add another league winners medal to his collection.
However, he was back to his most prolific form in 2018-19, scoring 32 goals in 43 matches as well as claiming 10 assists.
This was enough to attract the attention of Sevilla, who had a new manager and sporting director, and were undergoing a major squad overhaul.
While he hasn’t been incredibly prolific he has been a real threat, in Europe in particular, and has a respectable 13 goals in 54 appearances at time of writing.
For me, De Jong falls into a similar category as Jon Dahl Tomasson. An excellent technical footballer, but one probably unsuited to the speed and physical demands of the Premier League.
But 125 goals, three league titles, and a Europa League triumph since leaving Newcastle, would certainly suggest Luuk De Jong deserves to be filed in the category of ‘ones who got away’.
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