SIEM DE JONG
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.”