A look at one of the most exciting young players in the world of football right now.
2009-10 Eredivisie Champions and 2010-11, Runners-up FC Twente have failed to reach the Champions League this season. Their league campaign this season hasn’t been up to the mark of last two seasons. However Luuk De Jong has stamped his name as one of the most promising youngsters by scoring 30 goals in 46 games for Steve McClaren’s FC Twente.
Brother of Siem de Jong, Luuk was born on 27th August 1990, in Aigle Switzerland. He started at De Graafschap and rose up through the ranks for the youth squad. He played one senior year and that was enough for FC Twente to snap him up at the start of the 2009/2010 season. Three years later, he's banging the goals and attracting worldwide attention.
Luuk de Jong already has a history of winning titles and has played in pressure-cooker atmospheres such as the Amsterdam Arena. Even at 21 years of age, he's experienced some high-octane football. He's pretty happy in the penalty area. He doesn't rush his shot and he doesn't panic under a challenge. For a slight guy, he's very stable on his feet and waits for his chances. When sent through one-on-one, he doesn't suffer from the same profligacy that many sharp, quick strikers do. An underrated trait by most, but certainly an important one I might add, is the ability to use both feet. He is right-footed, but scores a lot of goals with his left. He is not limited by any degree of one-footedness, meaning he doesn't have to adjust his body or run to compensate. He's been a highly thought of striker-talent for some time now and at the moment could be coming into his own. He is strong, lengthy and can hold the ball up well. He has good movement in and around the box anticipating passes and deliveries both with head and feet. He is not just happy scoring the goals but is also skilled and intelligent enough to create for others. He was top goal scorer and top assist provider for FC Twente in the 2010-11 season.
Luuk has good top-end speed and is quick out of the blocks despite the fact that he's 6'2". His tall structure makes him a constant threat in the air and can take a ball in on the ground, in the air or straight over the top. In one particular purple patch, he scored 10 goals in six games beginning on 10 December 2011 against Nijmegen and ending on 10 February 2012 with a brace against Heracles. The run also included a hat-trick against Groningen, while the longest he has gone without scoring this season is four matches.
He made his international debut for the Netherlands in their 3-1 win against Austria in February 2011 at the Philips Stadion in Eindhoven, replacing Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt towards the end of the match. His first senior international goal came in the 2-0 Euro 2012 qualifying win over Finland in Helsinki in September 2011.
Judging by the current market, paying just about £12.5 million for a promising, prolific striker would be a shrewd move. Transfermarkt.co.uk has valued him at €8 million, a figure which is depressed due to the league he plays in. One season in a similar goal-scoring vein in England and his value will triple with ease.
However, Twente president Joop Munsterman has insisted that the Eredivisie side won't let go of the striker on the cheap.
"We have said that we won’t go lower than €15 million as a transfer fee. We need a top price for a top player," Munsterman said.
Twente coach Steve McClaren believes that his style of play makes him a perfect fit for the Premier League.
"Luuk is an English style striker made for English football. I am just desperate to keep him for one more year. But I realise that will be difficult," McClaren was quoted as saying by The Daily Mirror.
"Luuk is big, strong, and brilliant in the air and scores goals so easily. He has every quality a top class striker needs to have for a big club."
Despite Luuk’s obvious strengths, he has some issues as a player. He is not the finished article and doesn't subscribe to every one of a striker's responsibilities. He isn't the most aggressive forward. FC Twente have some creative players that have been able to make clear-cut chances for him. In a higher standard of league and in a more physical country like the English Premier League, his "lack of fight" in getting to the ball might work against him. If Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero or Fernando Llorente aren't getting much joy, they'll go looking for the ball. They'll chase, they'll harry and they'll hassle their opponents and force mistakes. If you’re not receiving service or getting much luck in front of goal, you have to exert your influence in alternative ways. This is something he lacks at this moment. It is one area he needs to improve because the defenses in England are better and he'd score far less goals and he would need to learn to force his way back into games when he drifts out of them to succeed and not be tempted to just "go missing." If he’s able to do that, he'd be a success.
The Netherlands international has been in fine form this season, and has spawned a huge attention from Borussia Monchengladbach, Liverpool and Newcastle United. Apparently, Everton’s David Moyes, Newcastle’s Alan Pardew, delegations from Manchester United, Chelsea and Spurs were at the game between FC Twente and Heerenveen, where he scored twice.
The 21-year-old attacker has a contract with Twente that runs until the summer of 2014; however club president Joop Munsterman admits there is interest for his striker and that the club may not be able to stop him from leaving.
The club have already offers of £12million from German clubs Borussia Moenchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen. The player, however, wants to move to England, where Steve McClaren, believes he will become a big hit.
Luuk De Jong looks like a general class player. He may not be the most skillful, but his eye for a pass certainly makes up for it, as he is not a greedy striker, but has that viscous streak of goals in him (the perfect combination). With the right management and ample opportunity, he could be a real gem in the Premier League as he has the right mentality and physical prowess to really impact the Premier League.