Former AC Milan midfielder Nigel De Jong has revealed what it was like to score the winning goal in the Derby della Madonnina, and also offered his thoughts on the current team.
De Jong spoke during a Twitter Space where Futera United – an NFT-oriented football club – revealed ONE37pm as its kit sponsor for the upcoming season. The Dutchman is an ambassador for Futera United and he spoke about a number of topics related to the Rossoneri, starting with his comments on the Scudetto race.
“I’m a Rossonero by heart, I had a great time there for four years. I’m still really engaged with the fans and with the people still working at Milan, in Milanello is well,” he said.
“I have a close eye on Milan. If there is a year we can win the Scudetto again after a drought of a decade it’s this year, especially with Inter slipping up yesterday, it was a great day, but we still have a couple more games to go. I’m rooting for them, Forza Milan!”
One of the best moments for De Jong during his time with Milan was undoubtedly when he settled the derby in the 2013-14 season. In the second half Mario Balotelli whipped a free-kick in from the right and it was met by a crashing header, sparking pandemonium in the stands.
“Obviously that is one of the best feelings that you can have as a football player and that you can experience. There’s nothing bigger than playing in a derby match and winning in front of your rivals,” De Jong said.
“For me that was a special feeling, especially because they are two teams in the same city, sharing the same stadium, having opposite colours. That match perfection in a derby, so for me to score a winner in that match, to engrave my name in history and in a lot of hearts cheering for Milan…
“I’ve been a Milan fan since a young age, since Van Basten Rijkaard and Gullit, so I watched Serie A from a young age. Whenever I saw them on television I was an instant fan because the colours of the Rossonero are so intimidating.
“For me it was just like ‘wow’, Milan at that time were the biggest team in world football, so obviously when the opportunity came I said yes straight away to Milan.
“Fast forward, scoring that goal give me a fanboy moment, just to be able to score a goal for a club that I used to adore when I was a little kid. It couldn’t be more perfect, to this day I really have Milan in my heart and I’m always cheering them on. That’s one of the pinnacles for me.”
De Jong was also asked if he could share any funny moments about his time with Balotelli both at Manchester City and then at Milan.
“There are too many stories, Mario is Mario, he’s a special guy and a good dude, there’s a misconception about him but he’s a great kid. I don’t really have a funny story, but he always came in these ridiculous outfits and he always thought he was stylish being Italian. When you really meet him one on one or when he’s in the dressing room he’s a great dude, he’s the life of the team,” he said.
Finally, he offered his thoughts on another midfielder that is capturing the hearts of fans at the moment in Sandro Tonali, another boyhood Rossoneri fan.
“Tonali scored the winner in the last game against Lazio, so I was really pleased for him. He had a difficult start but he really cemented his place, he’s a great prospect for the future. He’s a great regista, he’s like a playmaker. I see a lot of positives, he reads the game well and he’s tenacious when he has to be, so Milan have got a good one on their hands.”