De Jong, 31, came up through Ajax’s vaunted academy before transferring to Newcastle United, where he suffered through a series of miserable injuries including two collapsed lungs in 18 months.
He’s been capped six times with two goals for the Netherlands in his career and will join a revitalized Cincinnati attack with Jurgen Locadia and Yuya Kubo.
“The system they want to play is quite similar to the Dutch system, and yeah, Ajax is probably one of the team’s that perfected it,” de Jong said. “Over the years I played there, I’ve learned a lot about this similar philosophy and trying to build up from the back in the Dutch style of play. That was one of the reasons why FC Cincinnati was a good fit for me. Hopefully I can help with the experience I’ve had over the years playing this style of football.”
De Jong scored three times in nine matches this season for Ajax, all of the goals coming in a cup match against third-tier Spakenburg. His other eight matches combined for just 118 minutes.
He may not be with FCC when the season starts as he waits on visa approval.
After bouncing straight back from relegation and returning to the Premier League, where they spent have spent every season except two since the league’s inauguration in 1992. Both times Newcastle were relegated, they won the Championship and came straight back up.
This time, they have as experienced a manager as a newly promoted side can have along for the ride. Newcastle proved strong in their bid to keep Rafa Benitez after relegation, and he delivered on his promise to get them back to the top flight. Now, staying there will be another battle altogether.
Best, worst case scenarios – Best-case scenario is that Newcastle returns to its former pedigree as a perennial top-half finisher. That’s not out of the question at all, considering they have a strong side that pulverized the Championship at times. Newcastle can break down any defense, with attacking talent that could surprise the Premier League with its quality.
Worst-case, this team flops hard and battles relegation again. The Magpies’ biggest weakness is facing a team like them, that possesses the ball and storms forward. They lost twice to Fulham last season in Championship play, a team most comparable to Newcastle’s style at that level. Should teams look to replicate this strategy, Benitez would be powerless as he watches his team pinned back and unable to push forward. This team isn’t vastly changed from when they were relegated, and that could prove a major downfall.
— 1st Place finish in Championship (Automatic promotion)
— FA Cup 4th Round (Lost to Oxford United)
— League Cup quarterfinals (Lost to Hull City)
Star player: Ayoze Perez — If asked for most important player, I probably would have gone with one of the two central defenders, who anchor this club. Florian Lejeune is a quality addition and will strengthen this defense considerably. However, it’s “star” player and that is without a doubt playmaker Ayoze Perez. The 22-year-old Spaniard can both create and score, and he racked up 12 goals and 7 assists last season in the Championship despite playing 1,400 less minutes than leading creators Matt Ritchie and Jonjo Shelvey. Perez will be a critical part of this Newcastle squad, and he’ll need to blossom this time around after misfiring in his first go at the Premier League campaign the Magpies’ relegation season.
Coaches’ Corner: Rafa Benitez is as experienced as they come for newly promoted sides. He is the only manager in history to have won the Champions League, Europa League, Club World Cup, and Super Cup titles, and he has Newcastle in good hands. While he fell from grace at Napoli and Real Madrid, taking charge of Newcastle is a completely different animal, and he passed the Championship meat grinder with flying colors. Back in the Premier League for a full season for the first time since 2010, Benitez has a quality squad to work with as Newcastle looks to continue its slow build back up.
PST predicts: This is a very deep team, which will be of utmost importance when the injuries inevitably hit. The attacking trio of Matt Ritchie, Ayoze Perez, and new signing Jacob Murphy have plenty of support in Christian Atsu, Siem De Jong, Henri Saivet (should he stay). In addition, the midfield is strengthened by Borussia Dortmund loanee Mikel Marino and Jack Colback. The quality in depth coupled with Rafa Benitez’s guiding means this squad should be comfortably in the Premier League, with a safe bottom-half finish. The only slip could be if the players who failed to keep the club afloat last time perform below standards a second time.
As posted yesterday, Rafa Benitez met with the media after Newcastle United confirmed that the trophy-winning manager has decided to stay with the club despite relegation, and said this is his ship now.
This is huge news for the Magpies.
The 56-year-old Spaniard couldn’t rescue the sinking ship he inherited from Steve McClaren, and is tasked with lifting Newcastle back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
For years, Newcastle’s managers have been subject to the approval of chief scouts, managing directors and owner Mike Ashley. What Benitez has now is assurances that no player is being sold without his permission, and none being bought without his approval. Which means no midseason sales of Yohan Cabaye because the iron is hot, or unrequested purchases like Xisco.
Of course that could mean we’re headed for a huge August or January bust-up when Ashley or Lee Charnley pulls the rug out from some big acquisition that could firm up Newcastle’s standing in the top flight, but we’ll stay on the sunny side for now and assume Benitez’s people made that part of his contact air tight.
It means Newcastle could line up, basically, the same as last season. There are plusses and minuses to that, of course, as the club was relegated thanks to woeful form and players who were perhaps rightfully accused of only showing up for primetime matches.
— Newcastle took as many points from Manchester United (2) as Aston Villa.
— The Magpies went 2-0 against Tottenham Hotspur, grabbed four points from Liverpool, beat West Ham and drew both Manchester City and Chelsea.
— They also lost to relegation rivals Norwich, drew Sunderland twice and were swept by Watford.
There’s no certainty there, and one of the main things that helped Newcastle bounce right back up to the PL in 2009-10 was a crew that got its footing in the Championship by Week 13 and never looked back: the Magpies lost just once in the league from Oct. 24 onward thanks in large part to heart-and-soul players who stuck around after the drop (Kevin Nolan, Jonas Gutierrez, Fabricio Coloccini, Andy Carroll and others).
Among those who fit the bill for understanding the task at hand are Andros Townsend, Jonjo Shelvey, Jack Colback, Chancel Mbemba and Coloccini. Others, like Sissoko and Siem De Jong, risk poisoning the well. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be kept around, but Benitez will need to know transfer rumor and agent hijinks aren’t in the offing.
Make no mistake about it, Benitez in control is better than anything the Magpies have had in ages and Newcastle is far more likely to replicate the instant promotions of West Ham and itself than the divisional drops of Leeds United and Portsmouth.
Newcastle manager Steve McClaren has described a scary moment in training where doctors say Siem De Jong could have lost eyesight in one eye.
“It was just in training and he accidentally got poked in the eye,” McClaren said. “I wasn’t here, he went down screaming. So they said ‘Let us have a look at your eye’ and there was blood pouring from it. He wears contact lenses, and one of the contacts had come out and gone in his eye.”
De Jong has suffered through numerous injuries in the last two years, but nothing that threatened the quality of his future life like this.
“There was a massive danger [he would be blinded], a big danger,” McClaren said. “He was rushed to hospital. It was the biggest black eye ever and headaches and everything.”
The 26-year-old made 16 appearances in Premier League play this year, but has only been in the starting lineup three times. McClaren says De Jong will need a bit to recover.
“I’ve seen him this morning and it looks a lot better. Fortunately the doctor says probably a week or two to settle down. So he’s very lucky.”