IN THE midst of all the drama and disappointment going on at Casa Milano, few players have stood out in what is one of the poorest seasons Milan ever experienced. Kaka of course, is one. Balotelli, to an extent, is another. But the best player Milan have currently playing for them is 29 year old defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong.

Signed from giants Man City during the summer of 2012, de Jong’s debut season was ended midway after an Achilles’ tendon rupture. After fully recovering, de Jong started this campaign with a fantastic goal against Valencia in the ICC.

Since then, he has risen head, shoulders, knees, and toes above every other member of Milan’s squad.

Pazzini: “The goals build confidence, no more excuses for Milan”
Video: Honda against Spezia Calcio

Defensive
In Serie A, de Jong ranks first amongst midfielders for number of interceptions made per game: 4. In fact, he is ranked 8 above the next midfielder, and 19 above the next defensive mid in WhoScored’s rankings for interceptions. Although his tackling per game average is not the best, it is not his tackles, but his positioning and awareness that contribute to his fantastic defensive work. Why go into a challenge when you can press an opposing player off the ball? In the Champions League, his stats stay relatively similar to Serie A. His 4.7 interceptions per game put him second behind Oleksandr Kucher. His tackles per game, 2.5, stay the same. Balancing physical power, intimidating presence, situational awareness, and not being afraid to go into a hard challenge if needed, de Jong ranks among the best defensive midfielders of the current campaign.

Passing
De Jong may be known better for his hard tackles, but the passing and distribution aspect of his game is underrated. He is curerently ranked first in Serie A for passes per game. That’s right, more than Pirlo, more than Strootman, more than anyone. His pass succession rate is also sky high – his 92.2% success rate places him a close second behind Matias Fernandez. De Jong also plays more through balls per match than any other player- 12.8. Compare than to him nearest competitor Philippe Mexes who plays 10 per game. De Jong has also contributed 3 assists, second in Milan behind Robinho (5). Overall, de Jong is the best passer / distributor in Serie A at the moment. From his defensive midfield position, de Jong commands and dictates play for Milan.

Offensive
De Jong’s offensive game is nothing special. No goals, three assists. But he isn’t required to score, or assist for that matter. That is the job of Balotelli, Kaka, Honda, and the rest of the offensive line. De Jong’s job is to intercept through balls, press players running at the defense,and generally make himself as much of a problem for the opposition as possible. And he accomplishes this task above and beyond what is asked of him.

Overall
De Jong has made the middle third of the pitch his own during matches. Far and away Milan’s best player of the campaign, he is what holds together the pathetic excuse for a defense Milan have. Balancing fantastic defensive quality and distributive ability, de Jong has more than justified the £3,5 million price tag that brought him to the San Siro a year and a half ago.

What do you think about de Jong’s season so far? Comment or tweet me @daniel_gutman
all stats courtesy of WhoScored and Squawka

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29 COMMENTS

  1. I just read a tweet that said seedorf is planning on benching de Jong, is this true? Even of he isn’t as offensive as other midfielders he is still an asset to the team and his offense is underrated.

  2. I allowed myself to post your blog post to the red and black forums (quoted and with your name on it, for sure ;-) ). Great Article, i really think DeJong is a beast.

  3. Hahaha… Seedorf Will Never Ever Try To Bench De Jong.. So Far So Good… De Jong Is The Most Consistent Player In Milanello & We Are All Happy About That… But What Do U All Think About Saponara 22 & Parolo 28 Swap When We All Know That Saponara Is Better That Parolo & The Both Played The Same Position With Even Saponara Can Play From Wing When Needed & We All Are Waiting To See The Formation Seedorf Will Like Using As He Is About To Fix A Playing Formation & Playing Styles With Tactics.

  4. It is not milan material, he to slow positining to flow the ball to another role, that’s way allegri been sack bcause he playing djong every game,it is different last year because the position recoverd by monto, like example like yesterday in copa the ball flow by ritme.

  5. His offense is not underrated. I don’t agree with this article. His passing is not fantastic but I will put it at Ambrosini’s standard. If seedorf prefers Cristant monto n poli I think it’s a good idea as well. Maybe in away matches n rough champion league matches then De jong should start. Alternatively, Monto n dejong with four attacking players. We have pazzini balo kaka honda el shawaary n saponara. 6 offensive players for 4 places

  6. seedorf wont do a thing like that,but he may be moved from his present position to a side midfielder and montolivo take his place

  7. I think a midfield containing Cristante Montolivo Honda and Kaka as 10′ would be the best. De Jong is a beast but i think Monto would do a great job as a playmaker. And that is what we need a playmaker.

  8. Great stats..indeed De jong is a very good player n has been the brightest among the odrs. Evn wen the team hs been losing n struggling ..de jong ds a good job. But i hv noticed 1 thing..dat is Monty plays very well wen De jong is off the pitch..hmmm. If we play 4-2-3-1..i gs il b good for both of them filling the space in frnt of the defence. Let cristante b d back up..after all its one step at a tym fr him. Hopn for great things to com especially agnst Athletico. FORZA SEEDORF n De jong. FORZA MILAN per sempre….

  9. NDJ should fit in the Gattuso role, while Monto should fit in Pirlo role. so I would put them kinda both in front of the defense in a 4231 standings. I hope seedorf will set NDJ to be a Monto’s supporter in the passing ranks. Monto should be the playmaker in the regista roles for us.

  10. @rossonero93.. Yeah thats what i think too, with the right tactic they can be like “dejavu” of pirlo – gattuso role. However, what i’m concern is gattuso has a good physical and knows how to dribble the ball passing through opponents (i always watched him play in the past @Milan & national team of course). As i remembered, off the ball, gatuso never looked tired running chasing the ball from from left to right, side to side accross the field.. Not just (mostly) in the middle.. But nice article anyway. I believe De Jong can achieve success with Milan, hopefully win some thropies together..

  11. And according to the stats mexes is the second best passer in the league…don’t fool yourselves guys the fact is we spend a lot of time with possession of the ball moving it around doing nothing, and inevitably alot of it goes through mexes. But by no means is he the best passer in the league or even our team

  12. Great Article! He has truly been one of the best players for Milan this season. I can’t imagine what our defense would be like without him.

  13. Nigel de jong and montolivo will be good together, I don’t think seedorf will be as foolish as to bench him. My first 11on sunday will be ! Abbiatti. De Sciglo. Mexes. Rami. Emmanuelson. Montolivo. De Jong. Honda. Kaka. Robinho. Balotelli

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