Jonathan de Guzman planning more than just a short layover with DFB Cup winners Eintracht Frankfurt
There are not many childless passengers who can tease a smile out of airport security staff these days, but Jonathan de Guzman is one of the select few.
On cloud nine after helping Eintracht Frankfurt to a 3-1 win over Bayern Munich in the DFB Cup final, the pint-sized midfielder decided to squirrel away the trophy in his carry-on baggage as he passed through the X-ray scanner.
Suffice to say the amusingly indiscreet bounty – weighing 5.7kg, measuring 52cm in length, embellished with 250g of fine gold and gilded with silver and various crystals – didn’t go undetected.
Not that de Guzman expected anything else.
Aged 30, de Guzman has clocked up more air miles than most top-flight players of a similar vintage.
Born in the Canadian town of Scarborough, Ontario, he was just 12 when Dutch giants Feyenoord came knocking with the offer of a two-week trial and promise of a youth contract. By his own admission, his Jamaican mother wasn’t keen on the idea, but his Filipino father had long made up his mind and duly spent the family’s life savings on flights to Rotterdam – a gamble which paid dividends.
“Yeah, it was scary, but when everything got settled down, it went by very fast,” de Guzman recalled in The Telegraph. “My dad told me I was going to sit by the window and cry, and I would want to come home. But I can’t remember a day that I was sitting by the window. I always enjoyed myself.”
Of course he did. De Guzman got what he set out for at Feyenoord, spending six years in the youth ranks before turning pro in 2005. The KNVB Cup provided him with his first taste of silverware three years later, but he was unable to help the Club on the Meuse to a repeat showing against Ajax in 2010.
From 2010-2017, de Guzman played for six different clubs: Mallorca and Villarreal in Spain; Swansea City in the English Premier League; and Italian trio Napoli, Carpi and Chievo. An eventful career chapter to say the least, there was also the little matter of pledging his international allegiance to the Netherlands, whilst wearing a Canadian shirt, on live TV.
“It would have been fantastic to see him playing for Canada,” retired Werder Bremen, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Canada international defender Paul Stalteri told MLSsoccer.com at the time. “His quality would have been one of the best we’ve ever had. But again, it’s a difficult decision for some of these young guys. They leave home at 12 years old and go to different countries and it’s a tough decision for them to make, and one you have to sit back and say, ‘It’s their decision.'”
As was the case with former Bayern midfielder Owen Hargreaves – the Calgary-born midfielder who went on to represent England at two FIFA World Cups and UEFA Euro 2004 – de Guzman was fully vindicated. He received his maiden international cap on 6 February 2013 and, although the adopted Dutchman has only turned out for the Oranje 13 times since, he was part of the side that finished third at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“Of course you’ll get criticism, because players like Owen Hargreaves and me, we could have started making a pathway for other players,” he said. “Canada’s not a soccer country. I’m not saying they don’t produce good players, but for us to produce good players, they have to go overseas.”
Jonathan should know. His older brother Julian was schooled the Marseille way in France at youth level, before signing his first professional contract with German side Saarbrücken. Hannover, Deportivo La Coruna, Xanthi and Jahn Regensburg complete his list of previous European employers, along with spells on the other side of the pond at Toronto, Dallas and Ottawa Fury.
“My brother actually played with [Eintracht sporting director] Fredi Bobic at Hannover, so he was able to give me lots of tips,” de Guzman said of his decision to try his luck in the Bundesliga with Frankfurt. “He was here just before the winter break and came to cheer me on.”
De Guzman signed a three-year deal when he joined Frankfurt from Napoli in summer 2017. Despite missing 20 matches in all competitions through injury in his debut campaign at the Commerzbank-Arena, he still managed 15 starts, including one in the cup final against Bayern on 19 May.
“I needed a bit of time at the beginning to really settle in here,” de Guzman told Frankfurt’s official website. “First I had to get to know my teammates properly so I could gauge how I can best help the team. I’ve managed to do that, I’ve found my place.”
Sounds like de Guzman will be travelling on a return ticket when he heads off on vacation in the summer. Maybe this time, he’ll stick to boardshorts and flip-flops…