Should English Premier League suitors be concerned with Luuk de Jong's failure in the Bundesliga?
De Jong, a 23-year-old Dutch international, failed to make a big impression during his debut season for Borussia Monchengladbach, only scoring six league goals.
Now in his second season at Gladbach, De Jong has mainly been a benchwarmer and could be on his way out in the January transfer window.
Borussia Monchengladbach manager Lucien Favre has phased out the No. 9 position at the club, which is why Luuk de Jong, a €15 million signing from Twente, does not have a future at Gladbach.
De Jong scored six league goals in 23 league games last season in a campaign adversely affected by knee surgery and resentment towards Favre.
De Jong must wonder how different his debut season would have been if he had assistance from Max Kruse or Raffael.
Kruse, an all-round attacker, was Freiburg's MVP after being involved in 19 league goals (11 scored and eight assisted) and could be included in the German 2014 FIFA World Cup squad.
Raffael, an audacious, crowd-pleasing footballer, was looking to rebound after a tough period at Dynamo Kyiv and spent the last half of the season on loan at Schalke.
Arriving at Gladbach, Raffael had the inside-track having played under Favre at FC Zurich and Hertha Berlin.
Instead of Kruse and Raffael competing to play behind De Jong, Favre radically altered Gladbach's playing style to cater to a 4-4-2 without a No. 9. De Jong has thus been frozen out (he averages 7.4 minutes in the Bundesliga this season).
Both Kruse and Raffael are deep-lying forwards, dropping into midfield to facilitate, taking on opposing players and conjuring up moments of brilliance every game (and it's been working beautifully so far, with 16 goals and eight assists between them).
De Jong is a classic example of the Gladbach administrators wanting him but the manager, Favre, objecting and being burdened with a player that isn't his.
"Our head coach Lucien Favre has said from the start he didn't have 100 percent confidence in De Jong filling the striker position," Borussia board member Hans Meyer said, via Sky Sports.
Meanwhile, sporting director Max Eberl said, via Sky Sports: "It's a difficult situation for Luuk, but we are just as happy to have him first in our squad as other clubs would be when they have such a player."
By going to a formation without a No. 9, Favre knows there is no going back for De Jong.
Favre is pushing De Jong out of Gladbach, so this is the context behind his struggles that you need to factor in when you're assessing him.
Getting away from Borussia Monchengladbach manager Lucien Favre should be Luuk de Jong's No. 1 priority.
Stoke City left-back Erik Pieters rates De Jong highly.
Pieters watched from the bench when De Jong inspired Twente to a 6-2 win over PSV with a goal and two assists.
"From my opinion of him [De Jong] in Holland, I know he is a good player and would be really good here [Stoke]," Pieters said, via The Stoke Sentinel. "He is a big striker with great technique and good scoring ability."
Stoke are planning to approach Gladbach about signing De Jong, according to Brendan McLoughlin at The Mirror.
Stoke's current No. 9, Peter Crouch, has only scored twice in the Premier League this season.
Going to Stoke presents De Jong with a winnable starting position.
A De Jong-Loic Remy partnership in a 4-4-2 looks good on paper.
As the January transfer window approaches, expect more Premier League clubs to enter the De Jong sweepstakes.
After the conclusion of the 2011-12 season, Luuk de Jong had scored 32 goals for Twente, was in the Dutch national team setup and a reported transfer target for notable European clubs like Liverpool, as per The Daily Mail.
De Jong didn't want his development being impeded through inactivity at a major club, which was what happened to Luc Castaignos at Inter Milan.
This was De Jong's thought process in signing with Borussia Monchengladbach, so it's unfortunate how events have unfolded for him.
De Jong's talent is incredible: two-footed, strong finisher, can score headed goals and play in his teammates.
There must be a significant disconnect between him and Gladbach manager Lucien Favre for the latter to essentially sabotage De Jong's chances of success.
Taking a step backwards in returning to the Eredivisie should also be an option for De Jong.
Who knows—perhaps he may end up at Ajax alongside his brother, Siem de Jong.