De Jong: 'There's never been a problem in my career'

Given his history for violent play -- he broke the legs of U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden and French midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa in 2010 -- it should come as no surprise that the LA Galaxy's Dutch signing Nigel de Jong grew up watching the NFL.

His favorite team? The Pittsburgh Steelers.

"Can I say that here?" he asked at Tuesday's Galaxy press conference, where he was introduced to the Los Angeles media.

He's always kept up with American sports, so he knew that Los Angeles was again an NFL town, welcoming the Rams in 2016.

“I’ve been a big sports fan since I was little," he said. "That made it easier for me because I love American sports, I always followed them in Europe. It was difficult to follow because it was always during the night, lot of the games, but I would stay up and watch those games. I’m a big fan. I’m glad I don’t have to stay up so late anymore.”

LA Galaxy Photo

De Jong said he's always been drawn to the American sports culture.

“I think that it helped a lot that I’m still a fan of the sport culture," he said. "Since I was young, I always watched the different sports and enjoyed the way that America embraces sports are way different than Europe. I liked that. I came here a couple of times for holidays and my rehab [at StubHub Center in 2013], and I had a good feeling of how the culture really is. That’s why I always said that if I had the opportunity to come to America, then I would do it. Luckily, the opportunity came, and it was first on my list even though I had other European offers.”

In his fourth season with AC Milan, de Jong played just five Serie A games. His last start came on Dec. 13 when he was sent off for a foul on Hellas Verona's Leandro Greco that also resulted in a penalty kick in the 1-1 tie.

The ejection was the first straight red card in de Jong's 14-year pro career. (His only other red card was for two yellow cards in a UEFA Cup match with Germany's Hamburg in 2006.)

De Jong's career is perhaps best remembered for the red card that was not called --  only later did English referee Howard Webb say he should have sent off de Jong at the 2010 World Cup final for a kung-fu kick to Spanish star Xabi Alonso's chest -- but his reputation is something he tried to play down.

"It’s not about the reputations," he said. "It’s about the winner’s mentality that you have to show on the pitch. Because at the end of the day it’s about winning. To me, there’s never been a problem in my career.

8 comments about "De Jong: 'There's never been a problem in my career'".
  1. Brian Kraft, February 17, 2016 at 8:37 a.m.

    Yuck. I'm not a big booer, but I intend to be among the many to welcome him thusly to RFK. And I love Bruce but I will savor every Galaxy loss this season.

  2. stewart hayes, February 17, 2016 at 10:16 a.m.

    A 'winner's mentality' has nothing to do with over the top tackles and breaking legs; on this you can be sure. Should the player's past negligence be used against him? As a loyal supporter of our national team and Stuart Holder admirer I would have not even considered signing him.

  3. Wooden Ships replied, February 17, 2016 at 11:52 a.m.

    Absolutely Stewart. Hard to quarrel, if you're younger and have been enamerd with Arena's accomplishments, but is this more telling about him than you expected US soccer fans and pundits?

  4. Goal Goal, February 17, 2016 at 2:21 p.m.

    In MLS's quest to at least give the appearance that they are trying to better their game they are throwing care to the wind. First sign you have a problem is when you can't recognize the fact that you do have a problem and DeJong has had a problem for a long time. It's evident he has no respect for his fellow players or he wouldn't risk taking their careers away from them through errant play. With that being said it's evident he doesn't respect the game or those who play it with him. The fact that he has only received 1 red card doesn't mean squat in this day and age. I would say good luck L A and I hope you don't have to look back and say WTF did we do that for.

  5. haendel lazo, February 17, 2016 at 4:31 p.m.

    this guy think that breaking a player's is an accomplishment.

  6. Allan Lindh, February 19, 2016 at 4:47 p.m.

    Right, no problem Nigel.
    Shoe in for the Dema Kovalenko award.
    Which in case you have forgotten what kind of player Dema was:

    1999 "... breaking the leg, and effectively ending the career, of Dallas Burn defender Brandon Pollard with a dangerous tackle."

    2002 "... Kovalenko was again involved in a Dallas Burn injury, when another late tackle broke Burn midfielder Ronnie O'Brien's leg, causing him to miss most of the regular season. Kovalenko was fined $1,000 and suspended one game for his actions."

    And if memory serves me well, there were other horrific challenges, along with vicious elbows to the face that put players out of action.

    Welcome to MLS Nigel, you'll fit right in. And it was Bruce Arena that extended Kovalenko's career by picking him up with Galaxy.

    Shame on you Bruce Arena.

  7. Ric Fonseca replied, February 21, 2016 at 3:57 p.m.

    Very good read and reminder re: Kovalenko, and yes I now vividly remember him taking O'Brien, and was aghast when I learned of his $1K fine and one game suspension. As for Arena's involvement, methinks that he is now put himself "under the gun" - after all he IS the Carson Galaxy's GM and Head Coach, and has probably told himself that he must do better or he'll fire himself as HC tongue-in-cheek, of course...? Yeah right! Now, seriously, why in heaven's gate did he just sign three over-the-hill Brtis/Euros- having gotten rid of Omar and Juninho, and a couple of local guys? Is his name now, the Carson Galaxy "Win-At-All-Costs" Coach Bruce Sand... ooops sorry, Arena?

  8. Ric Fonseca replied, February 21, 2016 at 4 p.m.

    Forgot that he sold Omar and Juninho in order to make some $$$ room in order to bring in the "veteran" Euro/Brits maybe at the insistence of Keane and Stevie? And didn't the Carson Galaxy just had their clock cleaned by, the Sounders in a pre-season??? OK, there're lots of more games to come, but still... just sayin'

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