Position: Defensive Mid
Joined Club: January 2009 from Hamburg
Debut: 28th January 2009 v Newcastle United
After joining City for an estimated £18m in 2009 it took some time for a lot of City fans to warm to him, and those same fans felt that the transfer fee reportedly paid for the midfielder was far in excess of what he was actually worth. How times have changed.
The next season saw De Jong became a fan favourite, with his no nonsense approach and tenacity which had already earned him the nickname of 'the terrier'. He is rightly known for his uncompromising approach to tackling opponents and this has given him as many critics as fans.
Unfortunately for him he will forever be remembered for the wrong reasons after the 2010 World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain. Nigel inflicted what can only be described as a horrendous misjudgement, lifting his foot to catch Span's Xavi Alonso in the chest without any hope of getting the ball. It was a challenge that he should have seen red for but the officials never saw it.
Then in October 2010 Nigel went into a challenge with Newcastle United's on-loan player, Hatem Ben Arfa during a Premier League game. The tackle was judged to be fair by all involved and even drew applause from both sets of fans at the time. However, Ben Arfa had broken his leg and was out for the rest of the season. It was only 7 months earlier that a similar challenge resulted in Bolton Wanderer's Stuart Holden in an international friendly. Needless to say he was vilified by the press for each incident, only having justification for the challenge that didn't cause any injury.
The interesting thing is, despite the reputation he has with opposition fans for supposedly being a dirty player, he has only ever been given one red card in his entire career, and he is now approaching 27 years old. This was for a second bookable offence in the then named UEFA Cup during the 05-06 season whilst playing for Hamburg. This goes some way in justifying what his admirers have said all along, he simply is not a dirty player.
His time at Manchester City has certainly elevated his profile and he is now widely regarded as one of the very best holding midfielders in the world. He is part of the backbone on which the current City squad is built. His form has stayed very consistent, although his short passing and decision making have improved since moving to England. This was shown in his passing success rate which was still hovering around 90% even towards the end of the Premier League season.
Some of his critics will still say that he doesn't score enough goals, and will point to the act that he has only scored 1 since moving to City in 2009. But scoring goals is not what he is in the team for, for every goal the critics say he doesn't score he will prevent one from being conceded by City as he breaks up attacks and neatly passes the ball back out into space for City to build their own attack. And that is something just as important to the team.
In the last 2 seasons it is quite evident that Nigel holds the fans in as high regard as they hold him. Very recent evidence of this would be directly after the open training day at the Etihad Stadium before the start of the 2011-12 Premier League season. Nigel stayed out on the side of the pitch much longer than any other player to sign autographs for the eagerly awaiting fans. This was despite being asked four times by security that he was required to return to the dressing room. He is undoubtedly one of City's most important players and long may his relationship with the club continue.