The former Manchester City and Milan midfielder established a reputation as a tough-tackling enforcer, earning nicknames such as ‘The Lawnmower’ and ‘The Destroyer’ during his career.
Famously, the Dutchman received widespread criticism for his chest-high tackle on Spain counterpart Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup Final, for which he was only yellow-carded by referee Howard Webb.
De Jong made 137 appearances for City, lifting the FA Cup in 2011 and the Premier League title 12 months later. However, the 33-year-old reveals that he was a big admirer of legendary United hardman Roy Keane during his youth, and wouldn’t have rated his chances against him one-on-one.
Speaking in the July 2018 issue of FourFourTwo, he says: “I was a massive fan of Roy Keane. I loved his heart, he was fearless. Even though he wasn’t a big guy like Duncan Ferguson, he was the man.
“I used to watch the Premier League when I was a kid and he always had that look in his eyes that told you he meant business. It was like he was saying, ‘It isn’t happening today mate, this is my territory’. People forget that he was a great footballer – he scored banging goals, was a box-to-box player and good passer. If I’d played against him, he would have come out on top.”
Manchester City fans took De Jong to their hearts throughout his three-and-a-half years at the Etihad Stadium. But while he was fond memories of his time in Manchester and popping out for the odd Sunday roast, the wretched weather puts him off ever wanting to set up camp in the north-west of England.
“It rains for about 11 months a year in Manchester, so I’d say it’s never going to be one of my top holiday destinations,” he laughs. “But the atmosphere in Manchester was always great. I enjoyed some of the best times of my career in the city. It was buzzing during the summer and I loved going to a pub to have a Sunday roast, but I won’t live there after my career because of the weather...”
Read the full interview with Nigel de Jong in the July 2018 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. A ‘Stars of the 2018 World Cup’ special, we also chat to world champion Mats Hummels, Brazil forward Roberto Firmino, England midfielder Jesse Lingard, South Korea icon Son Heung-min and Panama’s Roman Torres. We profile some of the young stars hoping to make their mark in Russia, hear how a hotel fire helped Joan Capdevila inspire Spain to 2010 World Cup glory, celebrate the story of Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz at France 98, and reveal the World’s Cup biggest villains. Order a copy today, then subscribe!
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