lunedì 9 maggio 2011

De Jong brothers provide intriguing Ajax-FC Twente subplot

A better end to the 2010/11 Eredivisie campaign would be hard to imagine; the plot has been written perfectly as FC Twente, heading the table by a single point, travel to Amsterdam to face Ajax, the powerhouses sitting in second, on the final matchday. Effectively a title decider, the contest will cap an entertaining season perfectly. But before that though the duo will meet on 8th May for the final of the Dutch Cup.

Twente vs Ajax is not the only battle however. There is also a family affair on the pitch as the Tukkers’ striker Luuk de Jong squares up to Ajax midfielder Siem de Jong – his elder brother. The pair are two of the most exciting rising stars in the Dutch game and neither have had a campaign which could in any way be described as “disappointing”. They have excelled, and when the brothers meet to decide the destiny of the Eredivisie and Dutch Cup, the battle will be a game inside the game.

Luuk de Jong is one year and seven months younger than Siem. Both were born in Aigle, Switzerland, the sons of two volleyball players who played professionally in the Alpine country. Father George de Jong was also a director of the Swiss Volley Federation, while mother Loekie Ratering starred for sides like Luzern and Lausanne – she even picked up more than 90 caps for the Dutch national team. Their sons however chose football, preferring the sport from a young age and in 1995 the De Jong family moved back to Holland.

Both brothers joined the De Graafschap youth system from Doetinchem amateur side DZC 68. While Siem impressed with his awareness and ability with the ball at his feet, brother Luuk did not seem to possess the talent to reach the top of the game; the youngster had to put in hard work, training regularly to improve his technique and teamwork. However, Luuk did show a knack for being in the right place at the right time and had a good nose for goal.

In 2005 it was time for the pair to split as Siem was picked up by Ajax. It was not long until the older brother made his debut, enjoying minutes on the pitch on 26th September, 2007, away to Sparta Rotterdam under coach Henk Ten Cate. And he had an instant impact, levelling the match in the dying seconds and in so doing joining many former Ajax greats like Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Ronald de Boer, Bryan Roy, Marciano Vink and Patrick Kluivert, who all scored on their debut.

For the last two seasons Siem de Jong has slowly improved his standing at the club, going from bench-warmer under Van Basten to key player under Martin Jol and current boss Frank de Boer. And the secret of De Jong’s success – besides obvious abundant talent – is surely his versatility. Able to play in a variety of positions: attacking midfielder, striker, screening midfielder and number 10. This versatility at just 22 years old has helped the youngster to become one of Ajax’s standout performers of the 2010/11 campaign. He has notched vital goals too, scoring 14 at the time of writing. And De Jong’s talent for finding the back of the net will be a vital weapon for coach De Boer in these last two crucial games.

While Siem de Jong failed to chalk up a single appearance for De Graafschap’s first team, stolen away by Ajax too soon, brother Luuk made his Eredivisie debut with the Superboeren in the 2008/09 season against NAC Breda. After a series of impressive performances in pre-season the striker quickly became a regular at the club. Forming a partnership with Chelsea loanee Ben Sahar in De Graafschap’s attack, the duo could not quite do enough to help the eastern Dutch side avoid relegation. De Jong did not follow De Graafschap down to the Eerste Divisie however, with Twente swooping for his signature in April, 2009.

Luuk de Jong did not enjoy the best of starts in Enschede though, arriving as Blaise Nkufo’s reserve. The striker played few games (12, starting just three) and scored just twice. After the Swiss forward left last summer Twente signed the Austrian hitman Marc Janko as his replacement. However, the reigning Eredivisie champions soon discovered that they already had a more than able replacement within their ranks.

The 20-year-old has scored in every competition Twente have found themselves in: 12 goals in the Eredivisie, one in the Champions League, three in the Europa League, three in the Dutch Cup and one in the Dutch Super Cup (he scored the winner against Ajax in the season opener). But De Jong is not all about goals as eight assists so far prove – the youngster is Twente’s top goal-maker. Just weeks ago he scored a vital goal for Twente in the 2-1 win away at ADO Den Haag, helping the Tukkers to a crucial three points to take the side back to the top of the Eredivisie; PSV Eindhoven had lost away to Feyenoord at De Kuip, a defeat which virtually ended their title hopes. The striker scored again too in last weekend’s 4-0 romp over Willem II, helping Twente to stay a single point ahead of Ajax.

In the last 12 months Luuk de Jong has gained recognition at international level to go with domestic excellence. Moving from Holland Under-21s’ third choice up front, behind Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Bas Dost, to Bert van Marwijk’s 22nd debutant with the Oranje; he made his first senior start on 9th February this year against Austria. His brother Siem has a cap too, making his own debut on 11th August, 2010, against Ukraine.

And Holland is the only team the De Jong brothers will be turning out in the same side for at present. Last January, Ajax sounded out Twente over Luuk de Jong, but soon saw their hopes dashed by the Tukkers’ €12M price-tag. The brother’s parents’ dream of seeing their sons play side by side once again, but must wait a little longer while they refuse to answer the umpteenth question of whether they would prefer Siem or Luuk to win.

In the battle between Ajax and Twente for Dutch dominance, the subplot between the brothers will be intriguing and may in itself have a large say on where the silverware in question ends up.

Fonte: Inside Futbol

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