As the fall-out from Nigel de Jong breaking Hatem Ben Arfa’s leg grows, fall-out which includes the midfielder being dropped from his national team, it should come as no surprise that Netherlands teammate Mark van Bommel has been one of the first to defend his midfield partner.
The Bayern captain, today, called the de Jong controversy “very frustrating” and the two broken legs in six months caused by de Jong “very unfortunate.”
“But I know Nigel as a sweet guy. He doesn’t want to injure anyone but wants to win every match. That is his strength.
“Thanks to Nigel we reached the final of the World Cup. And now I hear people calling him a criminal. What a nonsense.”
While the response to de Jong’s actions has been strong, I haven’t heard many (read: any) label him a criminal. At the same time, van Bommel’s comments remind everybody not to get too carried away with the vilification of de Jong. His strawman may be inaccurate, but implicitly, it’s saying “if you’re saying things like this, you’re going too far.” De Jong’s a good guy whose unconsciously doing bad things, van Bommel seems to be saying.
There is, of course, an irony to van Bommel’s statements. If there is one person in the modern game you would expect to have a jaded view of acceptable play, it’s Mark van Bommel, a player who accumulated nearly universal scorn for his borderline-legal tactics during the World Cup.
As most know, Van Bommel’s antics transcend the World Cup. Last season in the Bundesliga, he had 11 yellow cards. The year before, he accumulated 11 yellow cards.
With that in mind, de Jong should think rather than blindly follow van Bommel’s advise:
“Nigel should not change his game, we need him as he is.
“But maybe he should occasionally go into a tackle slightly differently.”
So Nigel should not change is game. But he should.
As with the aggression he shows in what he thinks should be unpunished tackles, van Bommel seems to want it both ways.