FC Cincinnati added depth and experience to its roster with the signing of Siem de Jong. The 31-year- old Dutchman, an attacking midfielder with roots in the famous Ajax academy system, will join Orange and Blue for its second year in Major League Soccer.
What can FC Cincinnati fans expect from Siem de Jong? Here is a closer look at the Dutch midfielder:
Before joining the ranks of Ajax, De Jong played for Dutch second-tier club De Graafschap. He played for the Blue-White Zebra’s with his younger brother Luuk, currently the striker of Sevilla FC. While Luuk stayed at De Graafschap until he was 19 years old, and played 14 games for the club’s first team before moving on to FC Twente, Siem was picked up by Ajax in 2005. After completing his final academy years in Amsterdam, he made his senior debut during a cup match in 2007 in a team that included the likes of Luis Suarez, Jan Vertonghen and Gregory van der Wiel.
From there on out, De Jong slowly but surely became a regular starter under head coaches like Henk ten Cate, Marco van Basten and Frank de Boer. The latter, currently in charge of Atlanta United, was managing Ajax during De Jong’s most successful period in Amsterdam. Between 2011 and 2014, De Boer and De Jong won four consecutive Eredivisie titles together. The most memorable of the four was the title of 2011, which marked the 30th league championship in club history. In a direct match-up with FC Twente, who would have won back to back titles with a victory over the record champions, De Jong scored twice during Ajax’ 3-1 win on an afternoon in May that will live on in Amsterdam for decades to come.
In seasons to follow, De Jong remained an integral part of De Boer’s extremely successful Ajax, often as captain. On a midfield, which he shared with players like Christian Eriksen, Davy Klaassen and Lasse Schöne, Siem always played over 30 games during which he was good for double digit goals.
De Jong’s productive seasons came, in part, from the strong connection he had with De Boer. In a 2013 interview with Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, Atlanta United’s head coach stated: “Siem is such an important player for us. He knows how to put pressure on an opponent like nobody else and scores goals on top of that. We don’t ever want to give our opponent any rest, and Siem plays a crucial role in that.”
Premier League, injuries and reunited with Luuk
During the 2013/14 season, De Jong faced real adversity for the first time in his career. A hamstring injury forced him to miss over 20 games during what turned out to be the final months of his first stint at Ajax. Despite De Jong’s unfortunate end of the season, Newcastle United had seen enough to take a chance on the product of the most famous Dutch youth academy. The Magpies paid Ajax around $9 million for the services of the then six time international of the Netherlands.
Unfortunately, the marriage between Siem and Newcastle – which had tried out his brother Luuk on loan just months earlier – never became a happy one. Muscle strains and a collapsed lung led to De Jong playing a mere 26 official games in Newcastle’s black and white, for an average of little more than 30 minutes per game. Rafa Benitez had quickly seen enough and sent him back to Holland in 2016, where he joined Ajax’ rivals PSV Eindhoven on loan.
Despite the sensitivity amongst fans of both clubs, Siem was eager to take the step, because it gave him the opportunity to finally play together with his brother professionally. As he regained his health, De Jong had a productive season on familiar territory: he played 23 Eredivisie matches in which he
scored six goals. Regardless, PSV ended the loan after one season. That led to Ajax buying its prodigal son back from Newcastle during the summer of 2017 to fill up its midfield.
Back to Ajax and a tour Down Under
De Jong returned to the club where he had seen his biggest success, at the beginning of the 2017 season. It was not the easiest of times at Ajax. The team had lost the Europa League final to Manchester United just months earlier, and fell one point short of the Eredivisie title. Peter Bosz had
left the club and was replaced by the relatively unknown Marcel Keizer, who in turn had to deal with the permanent brain damage of the very talented midfielder Abelhak Nouri, caused by tragic heart failure during a pre-season game.
The rocky start of De Jong’s second stint at Ajax turned out to be
the writing on the wall for the rest of the season. The midfielder found himself on a pitch in the Eredivisie 21 times, but almost always as a substitute. He became a victim of the surplus of talent that had found its way to Amsterdam. Donny van de Beek, Hakim Ziyech and Frenkie de Jong often occupied the midfield in the Johan Cruijff ArenA, and forced De Jong to look elsewhere after just one year.
Australian side Sydney FC was interested in bringing in a big name, so De Jong decided to venture Down Under with the purpose of playing more games. His year in the A-League was decent; he found the net 4 times in 15 games. But the loan period in Australia was specifically designed for one year, De Jong said: “It was a great experience, but the idea always was to go there for a year. I wanted the opportunity to play games again, and I got that opportunity. But Australia is really far from home, sometimes it is hard to even be in contact with people back home because of the time difference.”
Because his contract with Ajax was good for another year, De Jong returned to Amsterdam once more at the beginning of the 2019/20 season. Ajax had just come off of an incredible season, with two domestic trophies and a Champions League run for the ages. The veteran midfielder knew that finding
a spot in that team, despite the transfer Frenkie de Jong made to FC Barcelona, would be a challenge.
On top of that, Siem’s overall fitness was once again an issue. As he became ready to play towards the end of September, the minutes he was allowed mostly came from him coming off the bench.
This led to his decision to leave Ajax for good in February of 2020. With a hat-trick against SV Spakenburg, De Jong showed once more why the love between Ajax and the midfielder will never disappear.
Now 31-years old, De Jong is moving across the Atlantic for an adventure in Major League Soccer, where he will join several of his fellow Dutchmen at FC Cincinnati. Despite the unfortunate events surrounding former head coach Ron Jans earlier this month, general manager Gerard Nijkamp made sure the De Jong deal did not fall through. Nijkamp is convinced of the value De Jong will bring to FC Cincinnati.
“We believe Siem will play an important role in adding to the final third and efficiency of our attack,” Nijkamp said during De Jong’s introductory press conference. “Not only does he have an impressive intelligence and skillset, he has also played in some of the most prestigious competitions and has been a leader on and off the pitch throughout his career. We feel he will be a
great addition to our club.”
When healthy, De Jong can bring a lot of value to the middle and attacking third of FC Cincinnati. He will likely form the axis of the team with familiar faces around him: Haris Medunjanin as ‘number six’ behind him, and striker Jürgen Locadia – with whom he has played together before – in front of him. De Jong is versatile and can play as an attacking midfielder, the role he prefers himself, but just as well as a number nine. If nothing else, his career stats should give FCC fans confidence: 356 games played at the highest level, with 104 goals and 60 assists. Who knows what those numbers would have looked like had his hamstring and lung not failed him?
It’s time for the Queen City to find out what he’s worth.