Turkish super club Galatasaray has signed Nigel de Jong to a two-year deal, ending the Dutch midfielder’s brief stay with the Galaxy after just 18 games.
De Jong, who signed as a free transfer, will receive $2.79 million a season, a significant raise from the $500,000 he was getting from the Galaxy. If de Jong had stayed in Major League Soccer and appeared in five of the Galaxy’s final eight games, a trigger in his contract would have given him a two-year designated-player deal worth approximately $3 million a season.
That trigger is why the Galaxy wanted to move de Jong, 31, now. The team is likely to see one of its allotted three designated-player spots open this winter if Steven Gerrard retires, as expected. But Giovani dos Santos is signed for three more seasons as a designated player and Galaxy captain Robbie Keane is expected to seek an extension of his deal, which expires at the end of the season. If de Jong had stayed, it would have left the Galaxy with little roster or salary flexibility.
De Jong came to the Galaxy in February after being released from his contract at AC Milan. A two-time World Cup starter for the Netherlands, he also has played for England’s Manchester City, German club Hamburg and in Holland with Ajax.
“In life, everything happens for a reason. I could have come here last year, but it didn’t happen,” de Jong told the official Galatasaray website. “I want to start fighting for the title as soon as possible.”
De Jong’s short stay in MLS wasn’t without incident. Known for his rough play, he was suspended on two occasions for a total of five games for dangerous play.
His absence leaves the Galaxy shorthanded in the midfield as the team pushes for a playoff spot. Earlier this week, the team confirmed that Gyasi Zardes will miss the rest of the regular season with a broken foot. Defender Jelle Van Damme is out for at least two weeks with a strained MCL in his left knee, while Gerrard has played just 31 minutes in the past two games and Keane has played in only one game since Aug. 7.
The Galaxy, which next plays Saturday at the StubHub Center against Columbus, is fourth in the Western Conference standings, eight points behind first-place FC Dallas and five points up on sixth-place Portland. The top six teams in each conference qualify for the postseason.