De Jong: Not everyone can play like Messi and Ronaldo

The Netherlands international says he models his game on the likes of Claude Makelele and Patrick Vieira and admits that he could leave AC Milan this summer

Nigel de Jong says he is proud of his role as a destroyer, arguing that not every player can play in the same way as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 29-year-old AC Milan ace has established himself as one of Europe’s most formidable central midfield opponents in recent years, with his high lunging challenge on Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup final becoming one of the most infamous images of the tournament in South Africa.

However, while the Netherlands international – who is part of Louis van Gaal’s 23-man squad for Brazil 2014 – admits he cannot play in the same way as the likes of Messi and Ronaldo, he is proud of his style of play, which he models on former stars Patrick Vieira, Roy Keane and Claude Makelele.

“I’ve always had the Amsterdam swagger. When I enter the pitch, I’m 1-0 up. I’m not the only one, though – Wesley Sneijder always had a big mouth and so does Robin van Persie with his Rotterdam style. It’s not that I’m working on that, it’s just who I am,” he said.

“But I always try to stay calm. When I see other players shouting to raise the team spirit, I think: just stop it! I’m not a big fan of that kind of behaviour. Calm before the storm is way better. Opponents need to see that they’re going to have a tough night.

“Look at players like Roy Keane, Claude Makelele, Patrick Vieira, Fernando Redondo: they also had this attitude. They just look ahead when they’re in the tunnel. That’s way more impressive.

“At Ajax, I was more playful, but that’s not possible anymore. I changed because of my experiences in other leagues. Especially when you don’t have the talent of Messi or Ronaldo, you can’t be playful anymore. You have to present yourself as a footballer and that’s what I did.”

De Jong also refuses to listen to critics of his foul on Alonso in South Africa, for which he escaped a red card during the 1-0 loss to Spain.

“Everybody can say or write what they want. I prefer silence. There are always going to be critics, but Nigel de Jong is heading for his fourth tournament as a starting XI player,” he said.

De Jong believes he has reached one of his best periods as a professional over the past year, having battled back to full fitness in 2013-14 following an Achilles injury the season before.

“I’ve always been patient that I could return to Oranje after my injury. When you can’t play for six months, that’s a long time. But I came out stronger and am only 29 years old. I still have to develop myself and become a better player. I think I had a good season at Milan.

“This is one of the strongest periods in my career. As a footballer and as person. I’ve found peace within myself.”

However, while he admits he is enjoying life at San Siro, De Jong hinted he could consider leaving the club – who have yet to confirm their plans concerning the future of coach Clarence Seedorf – this summer in order to make one last “big transfer” in his career.

“I’m very happy at Milan, but the most important thing is that there is certainty around the club. I want to know what the plans are and the club has to show what they want,” said the former Manchester City man.

“Maybe I have to make one final move in my career, it would be the last big transfer I make. It could be the fact that I’m staying at Milan.

“But first we have the World Cup, we’ll have to wait and see what happens. First I want to reach 75 international matches with Oranje. Right now I have 70, so we need to reach the next round of the World Cup.”

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