Inside Sport - - One On One With . . . - – Ben Somerford

Finest mo­ment? Sim­ple, says new Syd­ney FC sign­ing Siem De Jong: “It was the last game of the sea­son against FC Twente in 2010-11. We [Ajax] had to win, they were first, we were sec­ond, one point be­hind.

“We won 3-1 and I scored two goals. That was a day I get re­mem­bered by… It was like a sort of grand fi­nal.”

Af­ter their shock semi-fi­nal exit last sea­son, run­away 2017-18 Premiers Syd­ney FC may have landed just what they needed: a top-class, proven big-game per­former in the six-time Dutch in­ter­na­tional. The 29-year-old has an im­pres­sive CV with Dutch gi­ants Ajax and PSV Eind­hoven along with English Premier League side New­cas­tle United among his for­mer clubs. He won four con­sec­u­tive Ere­di­visie ti­tles at Ajax too, play­ing a key role such as that in­fa­mous fi­nal-day vic­tory over Twente.

Af­ter leav­ing Am­s­ter­dam for New­cas­tle in 2014, de Jong found his way back to Ajax in 2017 af­ter a loan stint at PSV, but his 2017-18 cam­paign with de Go­den­zo­nen didn’t quite work out.

“Last year I didn’t play as much as I wanted to at Ajax,” de Jong ex­plains. “I had a few op­tions and Syd­ney came by. It was a great op­por­tu­nity be­cause they had a lot of con­fi­dence in me com­ing here.

“They’re play­ing for the ti­tles. For me, it’s ba­si­cally what I’ve been do­ing at Ajax and all my ca­reer, play­ing for the league ti­tles. I hope to play a lot of games and be im­por­tant for the team.”

The Dutch­man’s move to Aus­tralia came about af­ter Syd­ney tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Han Berger got in touch with his agent. He re­vealed he chat­ted to ex-Syd­ney de­fender and coun­try­man Jordy Buijs about the move.

“I spoke to Jordy and he was pos­i­tive about it,” he says. “I know the Aus­tralian sports cul­ture and that they like sports here, not only foot­ball. For me it’s a nice en­vi­ron­ment to be in.”

De Jong ar­rives with the bur­den of ex­pec­ta­tion given his pedi­gree and Syd­ney’s list of pre­vi­ous mar­quees such as Alessan­dro Del Piero, Jun­inho and Dwight Yorke, but that doesn’t faze him.

“I think there’s al­ways pres­sure,” de Jong says. “When I came to Ajax, the big­gest club in Hol­land, I was cap­tain and there was a lot of pres­sure there.

“I had to do ev­ery in­ter­view af­ter the game. If it doesn’t go well, you’re the first one to ex­plain. I think pres­sure is al­ways good.”

De Jong, who says Luis Suarez and Ar­jen Robben are the best foot­ballers he’s played with, has also ex­pe­ri­enced pres­sure in foot­ball’s top club com­pe­ti­tion, the UEFA Cham­pi­ons League, where he thrived.

“We had a great cou­ple of sea­sons at Ajax and played in the Cham­pi­ons League four or five years in a row,” he says. “We al­ways had dif­fi­cult groups, but 2012-13 was our most dif­fi­cult.

“We were the Dutch cham­pi­ons and we played against the cham­pi­ons of Eng­land, Manch­ester City, the cham­pi­ons of Ger­many, Borus­sia Dort­mund, and the cham­pi­ons of Spain, Real Madrid. We were in a tough group.”

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