Liverpool’s search for some steel in midfield has intensified after mixed reports surfaced that the Reds are now looking at a loan move for AC Milan’s Nigel de Jong to fill the void left by Lucas Leiva’s injury.
The Reds’ midfield has lacked some bite and strength since Javier Mascherano and Momo Sissokho left the club and the current and previous managers have largely favoured the nimble and lightweight midfielder in recent seasons, such as Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen to go in alongside Steven Gerrard and Lucas.
But that trend seems to be changing with the link to de Jong and other more physical midfielders across Europe.
The Dutch midfielder offers a wealth of experience that could compliment Gerrard’s runs forward and Henderson’s hustling and energetic displays. De Jong can sit in midfield in front of the defence and provide the other two midfielders with the assurance that he will be there to cover their runs forward.
The same can be said if he is to partner Lucas if the Brazilian were to return to action before the end of the season. The two sat in midfield against some of the big sides would be tough to break down and would add a new dimension to the midfield.
De Jong, who joined AC Milan for £3 million in the summer of 2012, made 139 appearances for Manchester City and won the Premier League title with the Citizens before heading to Italy. A stumbling block for Liverpool acquiring the services of de Jong would be the ties to his Dutch compatriot and now Milan manager, Clarence Seedorf.
Another stumbling block could be his wages.
In his time at City de Jong will have capitalised on the generosity of his employers’ wealth and commanded a high wage. A relatively low transfer fee (£3m) to Milan may also indicate his wages would be high in Italy too, the fee compensating the wage.
Milan have a battle on their hands after terrible first half of the season which has culminated in the recent sacking of Massimiliano Allegri and the appointment of Seedorf.
The Italians sit 30 points behind leaders Juventus and only eight points ahead of the relegation zone and Seedorf will need the battling qualities of the likes of de Jong for the fight to climb back up the table that lies ahead.
The Dutch midfielder’s battling qualities will resonate with Liverpool fans after de Jong left his mark on former Reds player and fan favourite Xabi Alonso when Holland met Spain in the Final of the World Cup in 2010. The Dutchman flew in with his foot high and connected forcefully into the chest of Alonso, a move normally associated with Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee films.
If Brendan Rodgers and Ian Ayre can negotiate an initial loan deal with the Rossoneri, it would be beneficial for Liverpool if Milan pay a portion of his wage and Liverpool to make up the difference. The deal should also include an option to buy at the end of the season if the reports are true.
An immediate permanent deal may not be beneficial or even desired by either party at this stage, it would depend on de Jong having the stomach to battle it out with Milan or would he rather leave and join Liverpool while Seedorf sorts out the issues they have and go back at the end of the season when he has a clear idea of where his options lie.
But is that the kind of commitment Liverpool need this season?
The Reds are pushing for a Champions League spot and need all of the players in the squad to be pulling in the same direction to achieve that goal.
Loan deals are only acceptable at the level Liverpool play if they can be made permanent.
It is counter productive for the squad to take onboard a player who may not be as committed to them or one that doesn’t want to play for them next season. Any hint of negativity from a loanee can spread through the squad so its vital that whoever the manager and board decide to pursue is 100 percent committed.
One Victor Moses is enough.
As pleasing as it is to be linked to a player who is only 29 years old and an established international it should be taken lightly. De Jong has played 18 of Milan’s 20 league games this season and a huge pinch of salt should be taken before reading too much into this tenuous link.