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Galaxy in talks to send Nigel de Jong to Turkey

Nigel de Jong is seen in action against the Portland Timbers on April 10.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

The Galaxy and Turkish club Galatasaray were deep in discussions Monday on a transfer deal that would send defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong from Los Angeles to Istanbul.

Details of the talks emerged on what was already a dark day for the Galaxy, with center back Jelle van Damme reporting on Twitter that he is out two to three weeks with a sprained left medial collateral ligament and Goal.com reporting that forward Gyasi Zardes has a broken right foot that could sideline him for the rest of the year.

Zardes was left off the U.S. national team roster for two key World Cup qualifiers beginning this week with what was called an unspecified injury. The Galaxy declined to talk about the injury Monday, saying they were awaiting “final confirmation.” Zardes is third on the Galaxy in goals (six) and assists (five), and losing him for any length of time would be a significant blow.

He also has three goals and three assists in 12 games with the national team.

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As for De Jong, both the Galaxy and Galatasaray are working under a tight deadline because any move must be concluded before the transfer window in the Turkish Super Lig closes Thursday. De Jong, a two-time World Cup starter for the Netherlands, joined the Galaxy in February, signing a one-year, $500,000 free-agent deal after severing ties with Italian club AC Milan.

The Galaxy declined Monday to confirm negotiations were taking place but did not deny the talks, either. De Jong arrived in Turkey on Monday night. Turkish media are saying he will be introduced by the club Tuesday evening.

A Major League Soccer source said the league has not been apprised of the talks; that is significant, because MLS would have to sign off on any deal.

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A De Jong departure would come at both a strange and opportune time for the Galaxy and might be the first move in what could become another busy off-season for General Manager and Coach Bruce Arena.

De Jong, 31, has been a useful player for a Galaxy team locked in a tight playoff race, holding down fourth place and trailing first-place FC Dallas by eight points while leading sixth-place Portland by just five points in the Western Conference. Six conference teams will go to the postseason.

De Jong has started 18 of his team’s 26 games in the midfield, providing the crunching physical presence the team lacked last season. That’s helped keep the Galaxy in the middle of a tight playoff race. But De Jong has also proved too physical for MLS at times, drawing two multi-game suspensions for rough play.

More important is that his transfer would keep open a designated player spot for the Galaxy next season. When the team signed him last winter, his contract included a multiyear, multimillion-dollar trigger that would guarantee him one of the team’s three DP slots if he plays in 23 of the Galaxy’s 34 games — a total he would reach by appearing in five of the team’s final eight games.

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And that would leave the Galaxy with little wiggle room, since Giovani dos Santos is already signed as a DP for 2017 and Robbie Keane, whose contract expires after this season, is thinking of returning next season, when he’ll turn 37.

If De Jong does go, that would complicate matters in the short term for a team dealing with the absences of Van Damme and Zardes.The former’s spot would likely go to Leonardo, the team’s top defender in 2015. There’s no clear-cut replacement for Zardes if the broken foot is confirmed. But Arena could turn to a rotation that would include Mike Magee, Sebastian Lletget and Emmanuel Boateng.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com


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