(Editorial) – It’s finally been completed. Nigel de Jong and the LA Galaxy have mutually agreed to terminate his contract. He has officially been announced as a member of Galatasaray S.K. of Turkey. What happened that made this happen? More importantly, what does this mean for the LA Galaxy going forward? Let’s break it down.
Nigel de Jong Transfer To Galatasaray: What Happened And What Does LA Do?
First off, his contract was terminated. This was not a transfer. As such, the Galaxy get no transfer fee and no compensation from Galatasaray. The Galaxy got him on a free transfer and he ultimately left on a free transfer. This is an opportunity lost in terms of potentially turning a profit on a player.
A Bullet Was Dodged For 2017 Sort Of
As previously discussed, De Jong had a clause in his contract where if he played at least 23 league games, he would qualify for a DP level contract in 2017. De Jong has played in 18 of 23 games, with all five missed due to suspensions.
In De Jong leaving, the Galaxy have gotten out from under what would be a terrible 2017 contract. Under the current salary cap construction, a DP defensive midfielder is not a wise use of a DP slot. De Jong has been excellent defensively on the ground and in the air this season. He has shielded the back line. Some ruthless tackles aside, he has been a great edition.
That said, he’s a TAM level international player, not a DP. He hasn’t been the best defensive mid in the league. He doesn’t exactly sell tickets or merchandise, something a Galaxy DP needs to do. Say what you will about Steven Gerrard, he puts butts in seats and sells jerseys (even if it’s just to Liverpool fans).
Furthermore, it could have forced the Galaxy into a tricky situation. The Robbie Keane contract situation would have become more complicated. Steven Gerrard has also alluded to possibly not retiring at the end of 2016. Keane would have to be willing to take a non-DP or TAM level contract. If not, the Galaxy would potentially lose Keane or someone else would have to leave.
That said, head coach Bruce Arena could have sat De Jong for four of the final eight games of the season. They club also could have sold him during the January transfer window when European clubs would be looking and willing to spend.
If the Galaxy agreed to terminate his contract just to avoid a tricky situation in 2017, this is a terrible move. There were other methods that do not jeopardize the 2016 season so drastically. Like previous LA Galaxy players who got their contract terminated, De Jong could have just wanted to return to Europe. Still, for many reasons (financial and political) he could have found a nicer landing spot than Galatasary.
Who Replaces De Jong In The Lineup
So this is where things get tough. The obvious replacement as a stay at home defensive midfielder is Jeff Larentowicz. Larentowicz isn’t as tough or as good in the air as De Jong. He is pretty mobile for his size and position though. This departure wouldn’t be that big of a deal if the rest of the team was playing well. Larentowicz would fill a hole and as long as he didn’t make any mistakes, everything would be ok.
That’s not the case. The Galaxy are struggling. They just lost Gyasi Zardes for the regular season due to a broken foot. Their defensive MVP Jelle Van Damme is out for a few weeks with an MCL sprain. Never mind the offense being totally stuck right now.
Larentowicz is going to have to step in and play at a very high level to even start to make up for all the other issues going around him. With Gerrard potentially out for a hamstring issue, the Galaxy could have holding midfield of a combination of Larentowicz, Mike Magee, and Baggio Husidic.
These players are all serviceable in the 18. Magee is certainly a starting quality veteran on this team, but not as a holding mid. Husidic and Larentowicz, not so much. This should be a major concern for Arena and his staff.
Still, What Happened?
The timing of this transfer is still very bizarre. What caused De Jong to want to make a jump back to Europe. Perhaps he just wanted to return to Europe to be closer to home. Still, with his fame in his native home of the Netherlands, could he not find an Eredivisie interested in paying him a lot of money?
Galatasaray are certainly a big club, but they aren’t competing in international play this year. Turkey isn’t exactly stable right now. The weather isn’t as great as Los Angeles.
There has to be something else going on here. De Jong wanted out for some reason. Perhaps the club made it clear that he wasn’t going to be a DP next season, by transfer or by sitting him out a few games. He did allude to previous interest in Galatasaray. Maybe he had just had enough of MLS and wanted to get to that club.
Perhaps he was just tired of being demonized for his ruthless tackles on Darlington Nagbe and Stewart Holden. Maybe the Turkish league will let De Jong be De Jong and not judge him when he becomes a pirate.
Still, this is a good move for the Galaxy’s 2017 season, but bad for 2016. We’ll have to wait for a tell-all book as to what exactly happened.