The LA Galaxy’s extensive roster overhaul continued on Wednesday, as the Major League Soccer side announced the signing of Dutch midfielder and two-time World Cup veteran Nigel de Jong as its latest star recruit of the offseason.
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De Jong, whose contract with Serie A giant AC Milan was recently terminated in order to make way for his MLS adventure, won’t turn 32 years old until the very end of the 2016 season and will provide the kind of defensive cover and midfield bite — hopefully not too much, though — that was sorely missed by the Galaxy in 2015 upon Steven Gerrard‘s arrival in the summer.
De Jong, a 2010 World Cup runner-up, joins legendary Chelsea defender Ashley Cole and standout Belgian defender Jelle Van Damme as the Galaxy’s main coups of the winter, as the five time MLS Cup champions attempt to rebuild their squad after a disappointing 2015 season that saw them fail to win MLS Cup for just the second time this decade.
The route by which the Galaxy managed to sign De Jong and Cole will surely annoy a handful of executives from other teams around the league. An insightful piece by the LA Times shed plenty of light on the inner-workings of the Galaxy’s masterful plot, which boils down to paying the players massively reduced annual salaries — $500,000 in De Jong’s case, and $300,000 for Cole — thanks to the hefty contract buyouts that pocketed each Premier League veteran a sizable chunk of cash. With their bank accounts flush with enough cash for the year, the Galaxy snatched the pair up at a heavily discounted price.
With De Jong anchoring the midfield just in front of a reworked — and much deeper, with thanks to the departure of Omar Gonzalez’s designated player contract — defense, the negative impact of Gerrard’s defensive inabilities will be greatly minimized. While on the surface the Galaxy have spent most of the offseason acquiring aging European talent, a practice now frequently frowned upon in some MLS circles, they have done so at positions of clear need, both in terms of quality and experience — two traits De Jong, Cole and Van Damme bring in spades.
Given the Netherlands’ failure to qualify for this summer’s European Championship, the Galaxy will enjoy a full season of De Jong’s services, rather than losing the former Manchester City midfielder for up to two months from late May to mid-July. Expect the Galaxy to be near, or at, the top of the Western Conference in 2016.