It's only appropriate that on the day we declare that Newcastle need a new striker, we profile one for our Transfer Rumor of the Day. Luuk De Jong is one of those players that has been connected to Newcastle for quite some time, which ordinarily makes me skeptical that the link still exists, but Alan Pardew has recently been quote saying nice things about the 21 year-old forward, so this rumor apparently still has some teeth to it. He and Cheik Tiote were teammates on the 2009-10 FC Twente squad that won the Eredivisie, so there's a connection there, but they're not exactly friends on the level of Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Debuchy. Still, it's encouraging to know that the teams have done business together recently, even if under a different regime.
Of course, a player of this quality (we'll get to that in a bit) is going to be connected with tons of clubs. In the last few months, the following clubs have reportedly inquired about De Jong: Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, Schalke, Bor. Monchengladbach, Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Benfica. His agent claimed in The Sun last month that "15 other clubs" besides Liverpool were tracking him. It seems that De Jong is the belle of the ball, and has his pick of suitors...except, perhaps, the date he wants the most:
Bayern Munich are a fantastic club. It is my dream to one day play for them. I know there are a number of clubs interested in me. I have a three-year contract at Enschede, but if an interesting offer comes, I will certainly think about it.
Munchen are the dream club for De Jong, it seems. He wouldn't turn down another move, though, and in fact he had a few nice things to say about the Premier League as well:
I'm still very happy playing for FC Twente. But every player has his dreams, mine is to play in a nice foreign competition one day. And the Premier League is a really nice competition. I don't have real plans for the future - I'll see what comes my way.
Clearly, De Jong is happy to move, and the Premier League is an acceptable destination. If we read between the lines a bit, it seems De Jong is happy to move to a club that will compensate him quite handsomely, and Newcastle can ill afford to get into a bidding war with the clubs listed above. Reports were that he was available for £6-7 million in January, which was before he reupped his contract - a new three year deal that will start next month. Now club officials are saying they won't accept any bid that comes in under £12.5 million. (ESPN Soccernet) Given the current market and the player's age and talent level, that seems like a bargain.
Make no mistake about it: De Jong is talented. He stands at 6'2" and is a beast in the air. 2010-11 was De Jong's breakout season, as he scored 20 goals in 49 games and 12 in league competition, but he truly became a star last year. At one point Luuk scored 7 times in a 3 match stretch, and he ended the 32 game season with 25 goals (32 in all competitions, 50 games). He plays mostly in a withdrawn role in Twente's 4-3-3, such that it sometimes looks like a 4-3-1-2. He's adept at exploiting the soft space in front of the back line, but don't interpret that to mean that he's strictly a poacher. As I mentioned, he's an excellent header of the ball and something of a target man. He has fared well against stiff competition outside of the Eredivisie, scoring 10 goals in 29 matches in both European cups, and he will have a chance to showcase his talent with the Le Oranje at Euro 2012.
Alan Pardew has said that he'll keeping tabs on certain players at the tournament, and De Jong will be among them. You can bet that Pardew won't be the only manager watching. LDJ is certainly a covetable player, and if the Toon were to be the one of the 15 rumored clubs to actually land him, it would be an absolute coup.