‘For myself, my family and the club’
Luuk de Jong has by no means made the most of his intended comeback season at PSV. For example, the 32-year-old striker was plagued by injuries, made almost no minutes for Oranje at the World Cup and the Eindhoven side slipped up several times against low-flyers.
And so the focus in the premier league is on spot two, in a direct confrontation with rival Ajax. “Right now the most important match of the season,” if it is up to De Jong. “We should definitely be able to finish second, or Feyenoord should still make very big mistakes. But against Ajax you always want to win.”
The bottom line
With emphasis on want, and not have to. “We want to and with that attitude we go on the field, but have to is a little too far fetched. I always try to read the situation as it is.”
Indeed, PSV and Ajax are both on 62 points, but the Amsterdammers have a better goal difference.
De Jong on difficult season PSV: ‘We fell through the bottom line too often’
This is mainly due to PSV’s amount of goals against. Of the current top six, the most goals were conceded in the city of lights: 35. On top of that, Ruud van Nistelrooij’s team lost earlier this season to numbers 15 (FC Emmen), 17 (FC Groningen) and 18 (SC Cambuur).
“We have fallen through the bottom line too many times this season. In many games it has come back that we were too sloppy. Not steady enough on the ball, allowing opponents to play soccer as well.”
De Jong remains stuck at ten goals in the league for now. He then had to miss about two months in the early stages of the season due to a calf injury.
“I had also hoped it would be different, I’m bummed about that. But I can certainly be proud of how long I’ve been playing at a high level,” said the striker, who turns 33 this year.
“I do start to feel my body faster as I get older. Still trying to do the same things in the field as always. Being in front of the goal, helping the team and playing football with them. That’s not necessarily getting less yet.”
Disappointing World Cup
His fitness has been one of the reasons for giving up on Ronald Koeman’s Oranje for good earlier this year. “With the Dutch national team, there are also tough training sessions when you’re not playing. You want to give full throttle when you’re there. During the World Cup, for example, I was on the bench the whole time,” he looks back.
The substitution in the quarterfinal lost by penalties against Argentina, was his only moment inside the lines in Qatar.
“It was a fantastic World Cup to experience. But if you don’t feel you get enough in return, then you start considering what is more important to you. Look, I have two young kids at home. I had a very nice time and played with a lot of honor for Orange. Only now I felt it was right for me.”
Now he can fully focus on PSV. “I thought: if I want to continue playing soccer for a few more seasons, it is good to take some rest at those moments. So I chose to thank for the Dutch national team. The national coach also appreciated that decision. I chose for PSV, myself and my family. I still think that is the right decision at this moment.”
How much longer?
How long he himself thinks he can continue after his decision? He obviously hasn’t thought about that yet. “Haha, I hope as long as possible. But I didn’t expect to get that question already.”
The striker is under contract with the Eindhoven side for at least another two years. “You never know in soccer what will happen, for example with injuries. Maybe I can stick around for another few years, but that purely depends on how you feel, how things are going with yourself and at the club.”
For now, the focus is on that important match for the second spot, the one against Ajax at 2:30 pm. The PSV veteran even dares to make a prediction.
“Then I expect a win for us, I think 2-1.” The question of who will make the win is to the familiar: “By myself,” De Jong concludes, with a grin on his face.