It was a question that Luuk de Jong had been expecting. How does a player’s value drop from €12million to €5.5million in the space of two years?
“The first year was difficult because of my injury and because it is not easy when you go into a big league,” he explained to BILD. “In the second year from the beginning I received no chances.”
Signed in the summer of 2012, De Jong arrived at Borussia Mönchengladbach just as three of its key components were departing. The sales of Marco Reus, Roman Neustädter and Dante to Borussia Dortmund, Schalke and Bayern Munich respectively had seen Gladbach left with a hole in their squad.
Seen as an important cog in the new look side, the pressure placed on De Jong was instant, and significant for such young shoulders: “We don’t just have high expectations of him. He radiates it,” sporting director Max Erbel told the club’s website.
Comparisons were quickly made. Asked if he could be the new Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, many saw the then 21-year-old as the replacement for Reus and the 18 goals he netted in his final season with the club.
Struggling to match those lofty heights he was branded a flop by Kicker. It seemed a harsh evaluation when considering how little service he was receiving. The previous year the club had played fluid attacking football yet that was no longer the case. Cast into a difficult situation his struggle only cemented itself heading into his second season.
Arriving late to the squad due to commitments with the Netherlands U21 side, in de Jong’s absence Lucien Favre opted to use Raffael and Max Kruse in attack. With the two quickly developing a partnership, it left little in the way of opportunities for De Jong. By January, he had seen less than 90 minutes of competitive action - something had to change.
“The coach did not give me the impression he had faith in me,” De Jong said at the start of the year. “He just did not talk to me that much.”
In a desperate bid to rectify his situation he took a loan move to Newcastle United. His new teammates were instantly impressed: “You can see in training he’s a very good finisher,” Steven Taylor told the club’s official programme in February. “He never snatches at things and is always cool and calm.”
Yet despite his composure, De Jong struggled to reignite his career - operating in a deeper role than he preferred. A move to the Premier League had never seemed wise for a player that had struggled to adjust to the added physicality of the Bundesliga.
By the end of the campaign, De Jong had racked up 12 appearances and no goals, leaving little justification for keeping him on Tyneside. Instead, the club acquired his older brother Siem from Ajax - the attacking midfielder taking less than 45 minutes to open his Magpies account during a friendly against Oldham Athletic.
Reflecting on his time in Germany, De Jong remains positive: “The change was not a mistake,” he explained to BILD. “I wanted to take the next step. You do not know what would have happened if I had not taken the step and tried it. It is a pity that I could not reveal what my qualities are.”
Speaking on his departure Erbel said: “We wish Luuk all the best for his future and we look forward to seeing him again in a friendly game that we’ve arranged.” And with that a chapter closed on the young striker’s career.
Signed to a five-year deal by PSV Eindhoven, de Jong has quickly repaid the faith shown in him with a goal in the club’s Europa League qualifier against Polish side St. Pölten. His first competitive strike in 974 minutes of football, he added to that with another goal in the second leg. “It’s just good for me to get back to scoring a goal, but I have to make a few more,” de Jong told Fox Sports.
Now in the more familiar surroundings of the Eredivisie, De Jong will also be hoping he can keep alive a family tradition. Since 2009, a league winners’ medal has always made its way to the De Jong household, one from his and four from brother Siem.
Speaking on his new side’s title chances De Jong told Telegraaf: “PSV last year had a team with many young players, but they all now have an extra year of experience., I think we will see another PSV this season. My goal is to be champion with PSV and preferably as soon as possible.”
Beginning their campaign with a 3-1 win over Willem II, the club host NAC Breda this weekend hoping for another strong showing. With de Jong now seemingly settled in his new surroundings, ready to get his career back on track he can begin to look forward and plan for his future: “I hope that someday I again get the chance to show that I am not a flop.”
Watch Luuk de Jong in action for PSV as they take on NAC Breda at 5.30pm on Sky Sports 5 this Saturday