Siem de Jong unites with Luuk at PSV in search of similar resurgance
It’s a dream come true for Siem de Jong. Despite a nine year spell at Ajax in which he played a key role in a team which won four consecutive Eredivisie titles as well a KNVB Beker (Dutch Cup) and a Johan Cruijff Schaal (Dutch Supercup), the 27-year-old has completed a move to his former side’s fierce rivals PSV.
But it is not the idea of turning out for the Eindhoven giants which has always appealed to the ex-Ajax captain, it is reuniting with his brother, Luuk, in the same team.
The Swiss-born Netherlands internationals have endured (, not enjoyed) similar career trajectories. Taken from Doetinchem amateur team DZC ’68 to join the youth ranks at De Graafschap, they both moved on to prosperous spells at bigger Eredivisie teams before foreign adventures beckoned. Those forays abroad, disguised as steps forward in each career, led to nothing but misery, however, culminating in underwhelming spells at Newcastle United.
And just as Siem followed Luuk to pastures new, to St James’ Park, where he was incredibly the less fortunate of the two, he treads the same path to Eindhoven, looking for the very same rejuvenation which saved his sibling from drifting into footballing obscurity. Siem’s career is in danger, largely through no fault of his own, just as Luuk’s was two years ago. At PSV, he can save it, just as Luuk did.
Joining on loan from Newcastle, Siem escapes the Championship to earn a chance at playing in the Champions League again and competing for another Eredivisie title. Doing so alongside his brother is a massive bonus.
“It’s always been a dream for us,” he told De Gelderlander of the prospect of sharing the field with his brother as his move edged closer. “We also feel that we fit well together as players. At Ajax, I worked well with Marko Pantelic. Just like Luuk, he could hold the ball up well.
“I am pleased that we can play together at PSV. I’m very happy with my chance. I’m absolutely happy to come to Eindhoven, as the club’s aspirations appeal to me. I’m very much looking forward to playing in the Champions League again.”
It has been a long time coming. While Luuk spent three years more at De Graafschap than his older sibling to feature for the Doetinchem side’s first-team, Siem left to join Ajax’s youth squad before making it to the Superboeren senior team.
By the time Luuk emerged, scoring twice in 14 Eredivisie appearances for the side who were consigned to and latterly relegated via the playoffs, his brother was already breaking into Ajax’s first-team in the Dutch top flight and the UEFA Cup.
Impressive enough in the Eredivisie, Luuk was snapped up by FC Twente, where he enjoyed three excellent years in the club’s golden period, winning the league title under Steve McClaren, the KNVB Beker and Johan Cruijff Schaal.
Averaging a goal every other game for the Tukkers, he began to attract interest from abroad, and although the consensus was that he would have been better off staying, a move to the Bundesliga to join the prosperous Borussia Monchengladbach was too much to pass up on.
Lucien Favre’s men had impressed the previous year in Germany and, looking to build for the Champions League, saw De Jong as a sound option to boost their attacking options. Sadly for the Dutchman, his career across the border got off to the worst possible start, scoring an own goal in his competitive debut in a 3-1 Champions League qualifying loss to Dynamo Kyiv. That goal gave Gladbach a mountain to climb in the tie which proved insurmountable, and the same could be said of his career at Die Fohlen.
He started the first few Bundesliga games, but poor results and his inability to hit the ground running in a side that played a different style to what he was comfortable with, the pressure began to grow. When he was struck down with injury after a handful of games, things became even more difficult upon his return after the winter break and he lost his place in the starting XI by the end of the season. Favre’s faith never returned in the first half of the following campaign, and so a January loan to Newcastle materialised.
No confidence, not entirely matchfit, dealing with a different playing style, a massive increase in pace and physicality and joining halfway through the season, the move to Newcastle seemed a bad idea at the time. He was given playing time by Alan Pardew, but again soon found himself out of the team. Failing to score in 12 league appearances, he insisted his talents were not utilised properly.
“For me it’s not a problem to play behind a striker, but if you’re playing in an attacking team then it’s okay because I can come a lot into the box of the opponent.
“But back then Newcastle we weren’t playing very good as a team so it was also a tough time for me… I never had the chance to show my qualities as a striker.”
And so De Jong came home to Netherlands just a few months later, the last place his strengths were truly valued.
But just as he flew from Newcastle to his homeland, his brother went the opposite way with brighter prospects and a better reputation.
Siem had been a star for Ajax. A hard worker with a good engine and ability to keep things ticking over, he was a perfect partner for Christian Eriksen as Ajax dominated Dutch football under Frank de Boer.
He was the team leader and De Boer’s captain and confidante. He epitomised De Boer’s playing style with his tirelessness and determination and the fans loved him for his commitment and the reticent, unassuming way he conducted himself on and off the pitch.
On the final day of the 2010-11 campaign, he netted two and set up the other in a 3-1 win over FC Twente as Ajax leapfrogged Luuk de Jong’s side at the top of the table, winning their first league title in seven years.
By 2014, he had won three more Eredivisie crowns and the time had come for him to spread his wings, and so a move to England was a good idea. While Pardew was not too big on Luuk by the end of his time there, he loved Siem immediately.
“We are absolutely overjoyed to bring him to the club,” he said. “He is a player I have courted for 14 months or so.” The Englishman later made him his vice-captain, stating: “I have been lucky enough to have managed great players — and he can be one of the best.”
While Luuk was perhaps misunderstood, Siem was just incredibly unlucky. After two league games, he was ruled out for almost seven months through injury – initially through a thigh problem he picked up in training, but that period was extended by a collapsed lung, which he even suffered with at Ajax. He ended the season with just four Premier League appearances under his belt.
He went on to play 18 league matches in the 2015-16 campaign, but he only started three. That the universe has been clearly working against the De Jong family is perhaps best illustrated by the freak eye injury De Jong sustained in training which had brought concerns that he would lose his sight.
Relegated to the Championship, De Jong has not been involved for Newcastle so far this season and a move away from Rafael Benitez’s side always looked imminent. Unfit, unproven in England and incredibly unlucky, despite his quality, very few top sides would be willing to snap him up.
Now 27, De Jong needs some kind of stability to rescue his career. He needs time to get fit, patience to regain confidence and a good level to regain his sharpness. He will have all of that in a sound and supportive environment at PSV.
The Philips Stadion has been a good springboard for players who have suffered but still have a great deal to offer. Luuk himself has found that. A key player for PSV, he has been pivotal in two fantastic title winning years in Eindhoven and is a central part of the bright future they are building towards this season.
With 46 Eredivisie goals over his first two seasons in Eindhoven, he has benefitted immensely from his return to Netherlands and has gained a place in the national team too. Playing in the Champions League and expected to move on again before long, he will feel more confident when the time comes for another step and will have learned from his previous venture.
Marco van Ginkel is another player who has benefited from a return to Netherlands with PSV. A vastly talented young midfielder at Vitesse, his transfer to Chelsea came perhaps a bit too early, but any hope of breaking into the first-team was dashed early on because of a cruciate ligament injury. Although he earned praise for his displays while on loan at AC Milan, he was unable to break into the Stoke City first-team when sent to the Brittania Stadium and ended up moving to PSV on loan for the second half of last season. He added a lot to the Phillip Cocu’s men, scoring eight goals in 13 games as they won the league on the last day of the season.
Van Ginkel returned to Chelsea in the summer with the chance of gaining a spot in Antonio Conte’s squad, otherwise he was expected to return for a full season on loan at PSV. However, a knee injury rendered that impossible and he remains in London to recover – yet again stuck in limbo through no fault of his own.
Had that problem not affected Van Ginkel, there would have been no chance of Siem making the move instead. And so one Dutchman’s loss is another one’s gain.
It is certainly a move Siem needs. Crucially, the pressure is off of him. He will need a few weeks to get fit, but he will not be an integral player for Cocu’s side, whose midfield are in good shape and has just been bolstered further by the signing of 20-year-old midfielder Bart Ramselaar from FC Utrecht.
Instead, De Jong adds depth to a team looking to compete in the league, KNVB Beker and Champions League. He has experience, intelligence, oodles of talent and even more to prove. It will be strange for all to see an Ajax legend target his fifth Eredivisie winners’ medal with PSV, but Siem de Jong needs this move.
Finally, the brothers are reunited, and it will be a prosperous year for both of them.