On Sunday around 3pm Man City released it's team sheet to face Southampton in the opening game of the 2012/13 season. Absent from the starting XI was Nigel de Jong and in his usual holding midfield place we saw the name of Man City's new signing Jack Rodwell.
What did that team sheet tell us about Nigel de Jong's future considering what we know about his contract situation?
Now, was this a gentle bedding in of a new signing in what we all thought to be one of the easier games of the season? As it turned out the game was anything but a 'gentle bedding in', it was a topsy-turvy affair and not without incident for young Rodwell either.
Rodwell looked accomplished and tidy in possession against Southampton, always deferring and playing the simple ball to the gigantic talent of men like Toure and Silva. He obviously made a costly mistake when he was overly cautious and under hit a pass toward the wing. This under-hit pass was eventually punished by Steven Davis who latched on to a loose ball to dispatch it cleanly past Joe Hart.
It was a steep learning curve for the player who looked dismayed at his error. Rodwell was the first player to congratulate Dzeko's poached equalizer. I am not sure any of us saw Rodwell as Nigel de Jong's replacement and not so soon either.
This may have just been a selection issue or was it part of a wider plan in which Man City plan for a life without it's midfield destroyer?
Nigel De Jong
Nigel de Jong's omission from Sunday's starting XI may have been a temporary benching but there are more than a few rumours that have him exiting the club within this transfer window.
The last link has Nigel de Jong as having been granted permission to speak about terms with Inter Milan.
The problems that Nigel de Jong encounters in being a vital cog at Man City are numerous and varied.
Nigel is unfortunate in this aspect as he may be part of one of the strongest midfield's around. Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry will start ahead of the Dutchman when fit. We then see players like Milner (who may end up being a CM) and the new boy Rodwell as competition. If the impossible was possible Nigel would also face competition from De Rossi, the Roma captain, and one one of the Worlds finest midfielders.
Mancini likes deploying a deep lying midfielder in important games when the opposition are almost a match for our team. The problem is thus, Man City are now so accomplished in possession and the ability to control games that the need for a defensive midfielder has decreased drastically from Nigel de Jong's early days at the club.
Nigel is one of the best in the business at what he does. He breaks up play, hassle's and harries, has amazing 5 yard speed and is a tremendous tackler despite a few famous mistimed attempts.
Nigel doesn't have an excellent eye for a pass or a strong enough passing range to be considered an all round midfielder, he also poses little or no threat in the attacking final third.
He is a one dimensional player and it's a hell of a dimension. He is truly great to watch and gets fans off of seats in a very different way to to a player like Silva does. I am just not convinced that his one dimensional skill set fit's in with the direction that Man City are going in. And that is of a dominant possession team in which every position, bar the center halves, possess an ability to be a threat in attacking sense when the situation calls for it.
This is pretty well documented. The club began talking about a contract renewal with Nigel about 10 months ago and since then the tale has, in short, followed this well documented path.
Nigel asks for a substantial raise and the ball park figure was well over £100k per week, this shocked the club who refused to go that high and both sides refused to break from their stated position. Nigel and his agent believe he is worth this figure and Man City don't. The club have then purchased a younger player who plays a similar position and who will be paid a lesser wage, whilst also looking for an all round top-drawer midfielder. Thus Nigel's position looks to be one of increasing uncertainty.
We also may have to factor in the influence of his representative, Kia Joorabchian. Mr Joorabchian may be as close to a persona non gratis as exists around Man City. His hand was involved in the Tevez saga, the Onuoha and Cook email scandal and now in the steep wage demands of Nigel de Jong. Do Man City actually want to do business with this man? Probably not.
All told his contract expires at the end of 2012/13.
I think the player may be on extremely thin ice when all of the above are taken into consideration. A one dimensional skill set, crazy wage demands, an evolving tactical set up which doesn't demand a player of his skill set to be a vital cog and the sheer weight of player competition will mean, in all likelihood, that Nigel de Jong is not long for this football club.
Man City, with FFP considerations, and with the knowledge that his contract is expiring and his value diminishing by the month may be forced to sell in order to guarantee a return on the player who was signed for £18m by former manager Mark Hughes.
In short, a new contract would have been signed if Nigel was viewed as a vital player and tactical component for Man City. As it is, a contract is left unsigned and a transfer away from the club is extremely likely. His exit will be one tinged with a little sadness and no little regret once we start getting into those tough European away games in February.