Dutch import Siem de Jong has been described as “a miracle” capture by Sydney FC’s Netherlands-based board member and recruitment guru Han Berger.
Fellow Dutchman Berger - who leads a double life as the football director of the KNVB (Dutch football association) - thought the 29-year-old Netherlands international was out of the Sky Blues’ reach, even when his name was put forward as a possible loan option for the looming A-League season.
But after long talks with parent club Ajax, a one-year loan deal was done, leaving Berger feeling like he’d just hit a lottery jackpot.
The one time FFA technical director doesn’t hide his delight at the acquisition of a player still in his prime - and with a point to prove after a frustrating run with injuries and ill-fortune.
With de Jong and English goal-poacher Adam Le Fondre tasked with filling the sizable void left by the exits of 40-goal double act Bobo and Adrian Mierzejewski, Berger believes they can deliver.
“It’s a bit of a miracle to get such a player as Siem at his age and with his attributes to the A-League,” said Berger.
“It was a huge puzzle for the club to replace Bobo and Adrian with so many goals and so many assists between them.
“But I think we’ve done a good job, not only with Siem but also with Le Fondre and I think the combination can be very good for us.
“Siem is like a second striker who will play off Adam. I think that’s (coach) Steve Corica’s plan and expectation.
“At first when his name came up I thought it probably wasn’t feasible.
“He might not have been in Ajax’s plans at the moment but he’d have been a player who would have made any other Eredivisie team stronger.
“He was enthusiastic from the start about coming to Australia and joining us, and that was a bit of a surprise.
“Our co-operation agreement with Ajax helped make it all possible.”
A four-time Eredivisie title winner with Ajax, de Jong scored 78 goals for the Amsterdam giants before joining Newcastle United in a vaunted move ultimately plagued by injury.
De Jong found his way back to Ajax and did manage to rack up eight goals and four assists in 25 appearances last season, though only four were starts.
“He was unfortunate at Newcastle because it was one long injury story,” added Berger.
“But he’s a very skillful, very clever and intelligent player with good technique and a great feeling for space and time.
“He can create and score goals and we hope he will stay fit and show all his undoubted qualities for Sydney and build a good playing relationship with Adam Le Fondre and the rest of the team.”
Berger’s relationship with de Jong goes back to 2005 when he was appointed technical director at De Graafschap and the attacking midfielder and his striker brother Luuk (latterly of PSV and the Netherlands) were juniors.
“Their father was on the board there and I’ve known the whole family for years,” he added.
“They are a top sports family. Both the father and mother were top volleyball players for the Dutch national team.
“They are very professional people and Siem’s not just a good player but also a good person.”
While the defending back-to-back premiers still have one visa spot available, Berger said they were happy with what they’ve got.
“For the time being we are not in a hurry to do anything else,” he said. “Last year we also had four visa players and not five.
“I think we’ve done very well in the last couple of years with our recruitment and hopefully we’ve done the same again this time around.”