Nigel de Jong bringing an NFL mentality -- and affinity -- to the Galaxy

Dutch World Cup star Nigel de Jong didn't sign with the Galaxy until after the NFL's Rams announced they, too, were coming to Southern California. And while that's probably just a coincidence, De Jong admitted Tuesday the timing didn't hurt.

"I'm a big NFL fan," the bruising midfielder said in his introductory news conference at the StubHub Center.

"I've been a big sports fan since I was little. That made it, for me, even easier [to sign]. I love American sports. I’ve always followed it.

See the most-read stories in Sports this hour>>

"In Europe, it’s a little bit difficult because it’s during the night. I would stay up … and watch those games. I'm glad that I'm here now so I don’t have to stay up so late."

De Jong confessed to being a Pittsburgh Steelers fan -- then immediately apologized for that.

"Can I say that here?" he wondered.

Anyone who has watched De Jong played soccer won't be surprised to learn he has an affinity for the violence of the NFL. In a 10-month span in 2010, De Jong broke the legs of two opponents with strong challenges and in between he flattened Spain's Xabi Alonso with a spikes-up kung-fu kick to the chest in the World Cup final.

That has won De Jong the nickname "Destroyer" and inspired a popular Spanish website to rank him among the 10 dirtiest players in the world.

On Tuesday, De Jong said he's never much concerned himself with other people's opinions.

"It’s not about the reputation. It’s about the winner’s mentality that you have to show on the pitch," he said. "Because at the end of the day it’s about winning. To me, there’s never been a problem in my career.

"I'm not really a talker outside the pitch. So I’ll do my best on the pitch and let my feet speak. And do the best I can do for my team."

De Jong, 31, played in four of Europe's top leagues before negotiating a release from the final two years of his contract with Italy's AC Milan to come to the Galaxy. He said it was always his intention to play in  the U.S. but the chance to come while still in his prime made the timing perfect -- especially now that the NFL is back in LA as well.

"It’s the total package," he said. "If you see what America, what the United States can offer you apart from playing football. It’s the lifestyle, it’s the sports culture, the way people think about sport in general. It’s not only soccer.

"The sports culture is so big and I always wanted to experience that, sooner than later. I always wanted to finish my career off in America. How good is it that I can be here still in my prime and be a big asset and a big part of a team like the LA Galaxy, the biggest team in America?"

Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World