Steven Gerrard hails new LA Galaxy teammate Nigel de Jong as one of his toughest ever opponents

Steven Gerrard

The 31-year-old Dutchman frequently frustrated Liverpool's Gerrard-led attack during his time at Manchester City between 2009 and 2012.

LA Galaxy midfielder Steven Gerrard has hailed new teammate Nigel de Jong as a “quality footballer” and “one of the toughest opponents” he has ever faced.

De Jong, 31, had been strongly linked with the Galaxy over the past month before officially joining the club on Wednesday following his release from AC Milan last week.

Head coach Bruce Arena had been looking for a defensive-minded midfielder to partner Gerrard in the centre of the park after selling long-time fan favourite Juninho to Mexican side Club Tijuana in late-December, and the tough-talking Dutchman seems to fit the bill to a tee.

He follows Ashley Cole and Belgian defender Jelle van Damme as the Galaxy’s latest high-profile signing from overseas this offseason, and Gerrard believes the Netherlands international will prove a fine addition to the squad.

Speaking to the club’s official website, the former Liverpool captain said: “I think Nigel can only help the team and the squad with his experience and quality as a footballer. He’s been around Europe, and he’s played in big teams and big World Cup games – he’s a quality footballer.

“I’m looking forward to meeting the guy because I’ve heard good things from [ex-Liverpool and Netherlands forward] Dirk Kuyt with Holland. He’ll certainly make our XI and squad a lot stronger because he’s one of the best at what he does, which is the holding midfield position.”

Gerrard noticeably struggled during his first season with the Galaxy without a true holding midfielder covering for him and his ageing legs, as the team’s lack of balance between attack and defence saw them come up short in their bid to win an unprecedented fourth MLS Cup title in five seasons.

The 35-year-old faced De Jong repeatedly during his new teammate’s time with Manchester City between 2009 and 2012, and having been given some of the toughest battles of his career, is adamant that he is the missing piece in the puzzle for LA.

“He’s one of the toughest opponents that I’ve ever faced,” Gerrard added on the former Premier League winner. “Defensively, he covers the ground very well. He’s very aggressive, he’s very physical and he picks up good positions.

“Any attacking player looking to play as a No. 10 against the Galaxy now is going to be in for a really, though, physical match because I used to have really tough, difficult battles against Nigel.

“He’s certainly one of the toughest opponents I’ve faced, so to bring that into our squad, I look at where we went wrong last year: defensively, we needed to be more aggressive and make less mistakes, and Nigel will help us to be stronger in that department.”

De Jong enjoyed spells at boyhood club Ajax, Hamburg and Man City, respectively, before joining Milan in August 2012 and went on to make 95 total appearances for the Italian giants, scoring seven goals.

The 81-times capped Dutchman was rewarded with a contract extension until 2018 last summer and handed the captain's armband following a strong 2014-15 campaign but had featured just five times in Serie A this term before negotiating his recent exit from the San Siro.

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