Tag: Manchester City

Bruma and Rekik: new Oranje center backs?

New PSV trainer Phillip Cocu talks as the Barca or Ajax coach. “Play dominant football, forward pressure and take the initiative.” He needed different center backs in his team to play this way. Jeffrey Bruma (21) and Karim Rekik (18) have settled in nicely. Bruma was bought from Chelsea (but the London club negotiated the right of first refusal) and Rekik is on loan from Man City. They are young. Very young. But very confident: “It’s not about age, but about quality.”

It seems as if all the new players have settled in nicely at PSV?

Bruma: “I think so. The people here at PSV have done an awesome job. The lads that were here helped us a lot too. It makes all the difference.”
Rekik: “The fun thing is, most lads I know from the youth games with Feyenoord. And Gini Wijnaldum played higher than me at Feyenoord of course but we knew each other. Some lads, I have known for years and are good mates, like Depay, Willems and Brenet. That made it easier for me to settle in.”
Bruma: “Same for me. I played with Zoet, Maher, Narsingh, Locadia and Wijnaldum in the Oranje selections and with Schaars I played too, in the big Oranje and I also know Cocu and Faber from those days. And Karim and I know each other for years too.”


Rekik: “I played for years with Kyle Ebicilio, who is now at FC Twente. He is a very good mate. And he is Jeffrey’s cousin. Our families know each other really well and we even went on holidays together. I remember you left for Chelsea that particular summer.”
Bruma: “It’s quite special to be playing with Karim now, thinking about that particular summer. We couldn’t have made that up back then, hahaha.”
Rekik: “We do share the same management (Rodger Linse) and through them I heard pretty early on that PSV wanted us both.”

There is quite some good football in your families…

Bruma: “My dad was a good athlete. A long distance runner. My mum played different sports. Fabian Wilnis is my uncle, who played for NAC and Ipswich Town. My brother Marciano played for Sparta, Barnsley and Lech Poznan. He is now my manager. And Kyle Ebicilio is my cousin. We all love sports.”
Rekik: “My little brother Omar, 11 years old, plays for Man City as well. He is regarded to be one of the biggest talents they have. He is in the elite group, for whom special arrangements for school are made. They attend this very expensive school and the club pays for it all. I’m so proud of him. I think we have the talent from my dad. He played pro football in Tunesia. My dad didn’t have long career as a knee injury made him stop. He studied hard instead and came to Holland to pursue a career. But from the day we could walk, he was always playing football with us.”

Karim Rekik got introduced to the Islam via his dad, but his little brother inspired him to practice the faith. “Our dad leaves us free in this, but my kid brother got interested in it and we went and checked this mosque out and it did something to me. I do it my way though. I don’t get involved in ramadan as I don’t believe I can combine it with my football. But I do it on days off. I do pray 5 times a day and on Friday’s I go to the mosque. And I want to visit Mekka one day.

rekik signs psv

You both went to England when you were 16 years old. And now you are playing for PSV. Criticasters will say: see, you made a bad decision.

Bruma: “I don’t think you can make general comments like that. Every player is different. I totally believe I made the right decision. I have played and trained with some of the best in the game. I have played in England and Germany and I’m only 21 years old.”

But you could have played in the Feyenoord first team for 4 seasons?

Bruma: “Yeah but who knows. You don’t know this for sure.”
Rekik: “It’s really not relevant to talk about this, is it? It is all “I could have or should have…” You make a decision and you go with it. I think I have not made a bad decision.”

And the money?

Rekik: “I have not made my decision to leave for Man City on the basis of money. I could actually go to different clubs, one Italian club in particular, was offering me much more. My first contract with Man City was an apprentice contract. I was paid 570 euro per month and they gave us a rental house. I now have a real contract of course, but you do have to earn that.”
Bruma: “I did it for the challenge. I wanted to know if I was going to be good enough for Chelsea. I have not been paid to well either, in the beginning. After two years in London, I played 10 games in Chelsea 1. I played Champions League. I am proud of that.”

Is it hard to leave a top club?

Bruma: “For sure. Every day you become better, when you train with the likes of Terry and Lampard. When you play with only top players, you are lifted up and get into this flow. If players like Terry, or Kompany in Karim’s case, help you and guide you, you feel special. It does something….”

Man City has a lot of faith in Rekik. The youngster will be scouted every match. “I know they will come and watch me play all the time. This is how they work. They prepare reports and keep track. There is a whole department for this. And they do evaluations periodically. I like it. It is clear that they take me and the others seriously.

But young players in England do not have any say in where they play, right?

Bruma: “Wrong. I have played on loan at Leicester and HSV Hamburg and this has always been after consultation with me. Chelsea wouldn’t force a player.”
Rekik: “Same here. Everytime I got loaned out, it was either because I took the initiative or because we both decided it was best. PSV is my third club. I played eight games for Portsmouth and later on I went to Blackburn Rovers.”

How did the PSV deal go?

Rekik: “Manager Marcel Brands first checked with Rodger Linse whether I would be interested. Rodger talked to my parents and and me. I was very happy to give it a go. So Rodger talked to Man City we all felt it was a good move for me. I spoke to Nigel de Jong about it too. He has become a dear friend and I talk to him a lot about these things. He’s my mentor. And he thought it would be very good for me.”

And you decided to leave Chelsea, Jeffrey?

Bruma: “Well, there was a new deal for me, at Chelsea. They didn’t want to see me go and I could be part of the squad now. But I wouldn’t be playing a lot. I would be a player for the future and I would get time in the Carling Cup or something…. I did think about it but I decided I am beyond a player for the future. I am a player for now. I am young, fit and I have learned a lot at Chelsea and HSV. I want to play every week. I had more options, but PSV was the right club for me.”

bruma lampard

Lampard opposed to the tongue


But it didn’t work out really well at Hamburger SV?

Bruma: “I played a lot in my first season. It was a season of ups and downs, I have to say. We played relegation football almost. Very challenging. The second season, I became victim of a new policy at HSV. They wanted to use players with long-term contracts. The coach even told me I was his preferred option for center back, but the board wanted to use players who would be loyal to the club. I did understand their point, but it was disappointing for me of course. They wanted to sign me and make me one of their own, but they couldn’t get it together, financially. I still played 20 games last season. I wasn’t used to playing under that kind of pressure, to be honest. Relegation football… Also, HSV has never been relegated so playing with that potential outcome put extra pressure on. It was not easy.”

So returning to Chelsea was not what you were looking out for?

Bruma: “No, I didn’t want spend time on the bench there, with all due respect. I didn’t want to be in a situation where Chelsea would again loan me out to a relegation candidate. I wanted to take my career in my own hands.”

Jeffrey Bruma and Christianity: the former Chelsea man – son of a Dutch father and a Suriname mother – is a very religious young man. It was key in his upbringing and still is a factor. “I can go to church once a week again, in Rotterdam. I missed that a bit. In England and Germany I prayed with my mum and we watched services on telly or we read the Bible together. It’s a very cool congretation. Lots of music and singing. It takes 2,5 hours and then the cooks prepare food. It relaxes me. The older I get, the more important my faith becomes. My mum took me when I was young, but now I can determine myself whether I embrace it or not. And I do….

The Eredivisie has become a popular destination for young players. Look at Ajax, Feyenoord, AZ, Twente… Age is not a factor, it seems.

Rekik: “The meetings I had with PSV management were key for me. Marcel Brands and Phillip Cocu gave me a very warm feeling. I was on holiday in Holland and Cocu dropped in and we talked about me, my style of play, my career and his analysis of me told me he had really spent time on me. He gave me tremendous confidence and it was clear that he really wanted me in his team. I could also go to another club in England and a club in Spain. But I did want to play in the Eredivisie. I believe in Cocu as coach and the football played in Holland is befitting of my style.”
Bruma: “For me, it was important to play in Holland. Young players get more chances here. And the play is more open. Like Karim says, Brands and Cocu knew everything about me and my background. I did my homework too and when I learned about the signings and the ambitions here, I didn’t need much time to decide.”

You are both young, but play with the confidence of experienced players.

Rekik: “I hear that comment already a long time. I have always been skipper of teams and I always here that I resonate authority and confidence. And I worked on that with a vengeance. When I first played at City, I thought I couldn’t play football anymore. Every ball was taken away from me. I lost every challenge. And a loose ball, man…you’d see Kompany running towards me and I would simply pull back. I needed to work out. Get stronger. I got this personal program and started to work in the gym, to gain strength.”

What does Cocu, your coach, expect from you?

Rekik: “He wants us to be fearless. In defensive sense and in offensive sense. He wants the team to dominate, to control the pitch and the ball. We can do this.”
Bruma: “He wants us to play our own game. Karim and I have a click together, that always helps. I trust Karim, so I can take a bit more initiative and vice versa. He basically wins all his duels, did you see that?”
Rekik: “And when Jeff commits to a duel, I back him up. We are both pretty content with how we are doing and that is not something I easily am.”

You are relatively inexperienced, but you both ooze confidence.

Rekik: “There is no need to be anxious or nervous on the ball. You have to have faith in your skills. We both always were confident on the ball, which doesn’t mean we never make a stupid mistake, hahaha.”

Jeffrey Bruma’s transfer to PSV was a bit delayed due to alleged heart issues. “I wasn’t surprised,” Bruma says. “I have a thick heart muscle. What they call a sports heart. Chelsea knew this too, they found out when I was 16 years old. It is not a problem. PSV knew this too. For my medical though, they wanted to use the same doctor I have consulted for years in London and the good man was on a summer break, hence the delay. If he wasn’t away, it would have been settled on that same day and no one would have cared.”

Has England changed you or are you still typical Dutch defenders: good in build up, trying to take initiative?

Rekik: “That will always be part of our game of course. But the time in England has taught us to be killers too. As a defender, your first task is to defend.”
Bruma: “True. My development at Feyenoord as a defender was great, but always aimed at ball possession. In England I have learned what it is to battle. Practice in England and Germany were normally tougher than the games. Flying tackles like razorblades man.”
Rekik: “Coach Cocu demands this from us on practice too. He wants to see 100% commitment.”
Bruma: “He always says “being a nice guy won’t win you titles”….

bruma signs PSV

The football world is taking notice of this PSV. With lots of scouts on the stands, as a result.

Bruma: “Cool. But, we played only 4 or 5 games. Too early to pass judgement. We should not think we are “there”. Because then it will go south really quickly.”
Rekik: “We do notice the response from the crowd. That always helps us improve too. So there is that interaction.”

You were the youngest PSV ever in the Zulte Waregem games.

Rekik: “It’s pretty cool to be part of that. Some people believe young people can’t be consistent. I don’t buy it.”

Jeffrey, Chelsea has negotiated a buy back option for 5 Mio Euros. Does that go through your mind?

Bruma: “I know they demanded that. But it’s not a topic for me.”

Karim, how is that for you?

Rekik: “I am now focusing on PSV. My deal with Man City is till 2017. They have faith in me, but this season it’s all PSV for me. As a player in a top club you need to live day by day. I don’t want to think about next season.”

What are your personal goals?

Bruma: “I want to play as many games as possible and play well. The coach wants me to take charge and lead. And that is what I want to do. I want to win silverware. We want to have a serious go at the title.”
Rekik: “Me too.”
Bruma: “And stay realistic. Keep our feet firmly on the ground.”

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Nigel de Jong not written off yet….

Nigel de Jong showed himself again, last week against PSV. He copped a knock on his toe in the first 5 minutes and that injury will most likely stop him from playing Milan’s opening game in the Serie A this weekend and might even keep him grounded for the second leg vs PSV.

The stocky midfielder has been criticised a lot on our blog and in the Dutch media, but in Germany, England and now in Italy there is tremendous respect for the former Ajax player. And I think that he deserves it. I personally have a lot of respect and admiration for De Jong. Partly, because he was launched as a creative midfielder, who was transformed into a disciplined, hardworking destroyer.

In Oranje, I rather saw Van der Vaart on De Jong’s position. Obviously, more football with Raf. And we already had Mark van Bommel. But I had a lot of admiration for De Jong’s career and I felt that the tremendous criticism he copped over the Xabi Alonso kick and the Ben Arfa leg injury were exaggerated.

I repeat: the kick in the face of Demy de Zeeuw was worse (for the victim) than the Xabi kick but that was never an item as it didn’t happen versus a Spaniard. De Jong clearly had eye for the ball and did not hit Alonso on purpose. Why on Earth would he do that (Wasn’t it in the first 2o mins of the game?). The Ben Arfa situation wasn’t even a foul. Just an unlucky situation. Not nice for Ben Arfa, but Robin van Persie had a similar situation, from a friendly against Italy. Are we now repeating constantly that the Italian defender was a criminal? No, it was an unlucky situation.

With Mark van Bommel retired and with our midfielders in a shaky position ( Fer, Van Ginkel, Strootman, Clasie…either not in great form or just moved to another club…always a risk), it is conceivable that LVG will want to try out De Jong once more.


Louis inspired Nigel….


Because against Andorra and Hungary, it’s all good to play with a midfield with Maher, De Guzman and Van Ginkel but against Brazil, Germany or Portugal, you might want to use De Jong as destroyer… Right?

Lets sing the praise of this un-Dutch midfielder….

Nigel De Jong said goodbye to Manchester on the final day of the summer transfer window, much to the regret of many City fans. De Jong was a firm favourite during his three-and-a-half year stint at the club and he will always be respected by the City supporters for the total commitment he showed in a blue shirt.

The disappointment over his sale was palpable but his new adventure at AC Milan has begun. Here, we look back over his life and assess his impact on the footballing world.

De Jong was raised in Amsterdam-West, an area of Holland home to many immigrant families, particularly those like the De Jong family who are of Surinamese descent. Nigel’s father, Jerry, was a player at PSV Eindhoven, representing Holland on three occasions, however, he had little involvement in the De Jong household where young Nigel was considered the man of the house. With his father absent from home, and his mother suffering from a kidney complaint that frequently saw her in hospital, he assumed responsibility for his four other siblings, an experience he feels made him the man he is today.

“I had to grow up quickly. My childhood wasn’t easy. We didn’t have a lot and we had to fight for everything we got. There was no time to play around and not a lot of spare cash. When you grow up in that kind of area you can go one of two ways, and one is on the streets. I don’t want to make it too dramatic but there were other kids from my neighbourhood who got into a bad way of life. I’ve seen friends die from being on the streets.”

De Jong started his career as a forward; a number 10 seeking to influence the game high up the pitch. In 2003, he went to Highbury as an 18 year old with Ajax in a Champions League match, scoring his first senior goal with a brilliant lob into the top corner. The difference between the young player at Ajax and the De Jong operating in today’s game is staggering. It was a move masterminded by Huub Stevens, his coach at Hamburg, who, after signing De Jong in January 2006 for a fee of less than £1 million, moved him to the role we now associate him with.

“I was always a striker, or a No10. Even in my last year at Ajax I was on the right side of attack. But then I moved to Germany and the Hamburg coach, Huub Stevens, said: ‘Listen, this might be a surprise but I’m going to turn you into a defensive midfielder so trust me.’

“It was a shock because I’d always played in a more glamorous position but I’d always admired that kind of player. I looked at it like this: Zinedine Zidane couldn’t have done his job without Claude Makélélé. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke couldn’t have scored those goals without Roy Keane. Fernando Redondo, Patrick Vieira, Fernando Hierro; a team cannot operate without these players. It’s about discipline and doing a job for the team. So let the other players fight it out to be the main man. My job is to defend then give the ball to the players who have the creativity.”

nigel karate trap

Bruce Lee? Jackie Chan? No. Louis van Gaal….


It was a positional shift that paid off handsomely as De Jong gradually forged a reputation as one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe, with his nickname Rasenmäher (the Lawnmower) given as a reference to his style of play that mows down all before him.

It was January 2009, with City struggling for form under the guidance of Mark Hughes, that the club payed £18 million for a player with only 6 months left on his contract. Such was the importance of the acquisition, City paid over-the-odds to ensure he wasn’t snapped up by the other big clubs who were circling. He joined a side far from the finished article, with huge disparity between home and away form meaning City were struggling in the league. They had also been knocked out of both cup competitions by lower league sides, on penalties to Brighton in the League Cup, and smashed 3-0 at home by Nottingham Forest. Expectations were high but performances were far from impressive.

He made his debut in a home win against Newcastle but City’s patchy form continued soon after, picking up only 4 points from the remaining 9 away matches. For a player used to success with Ajax and Hamburg it was probably a shock to the system, having habitually finished in the top 3 at his previous clubs. But De Jong wanted to be part of the long-term future of the club.

“The results have been mixed, especially the difference between the home form and the away form. We need to improve on that but it’s a beautiful club and it’s been good for me to see the club in a, quotes, ‘bad season’ and experience the downside, knowing there are successful years to come. The success was never going to come straightaway. I knew that from the start. But I met the chairman [Khaldoon Al Mubarak] and he told me his plans.

“He told me about the expectations of the club and the way some people expected them to take the club to the top in the first six months. It doesn’t work like that, of course. It takes time. Everyone seems to think the new owners are pumping in all this money without using their minds but I talked to the board and Khaldoon and they are trying to build something with a mind behind it. You just have to have patience and work your bollocks off to get it right.”

No one could deny that De Jong was true to his word.

Living in Bowden, the palatial Cheshire suburb home to many of Manchester’s footballers, he quickly settled in a city he felt was overwhelmingly blue.

“There are so many more Blues than Reds. If I take a cab, the driver is a City fan. If I go to the shopping centre, all I see are City shirts. I was astonished when I first arrived because everyone was a Blue and I was asking everyone: ‘How does that work? Manchester United are the biggest club in the world, aren’t they?’

“People would explain to me: ‘That’s just a global thing, the real workers’ club is Manchester City.’ And it’s true, it’s a working club, and the people in Manchester can relate to this club because they are working people. They are very proud of it. That’s why Manchester City is so big locally – not worldwide maybe, but definitely locally.”

The following season, things started in a similar fashion for City, with Mark Hughes’ sacking coming immediately after the 4-3 home win over Sunderland with City sixth in the table. “A return of two wins in 11 Premier League games is clearly not in line with the targets that were agreed and set,” read the City statement and few can argue it was the right decision. Roberto Mancini was quickly appointed and De Jong remained a key player in the side under the Italian as City finished fifth in the table. The improvement in the team was obvious, with City looking far more professional and well-organised than under Hughes. They lost only four games that season and had a chance to qualify for the Champions League. However, Tottenham’s victory at The Etihad (or the City of Manchester Stadium was it was then called) courtesy of a Peter Crouch goal meant it was Spurs, not City, who landed a place in the biggest knock-out competition on the planet. City were improving all the time and De Jong was a vital component.

That summer, De Jong travelled with the Dutch national side to the World Cup in South Africa where he was a key member of the team which went all the way to the final. Playing with two holding midfielders, De Jong and Mark van Bommel, who were vital to Holland’s progress, they played a more defensive style than we had come to associate with the Dutch but results were good. In the final, which they lost 1-0 after extra time to Spain, De Jong was lucky not to be sent off after a terrible challenge on Xabi Alonso in which he planted his studs into the Real Madrid player’s chest. It was an incident which saw his reputation as a dirty player grow; an underserved reputation in the eyes of City fans who knew him as a fair but firm tackler. Upon arrival back in Manchester, De Jong was unrepentant about the challenge.

“I don’t regret anything. I never intended to hurt him. And after such a great World Cup I came back in the dressing room of Manchester City as a different player.

“I had just played in the final of the World Cup. It gives you a different status. The lads at City said they were impressed with the Dutch team’s performances out there in South Africa. That was really nice.’’

nigel sush

Nigel will silence the criticasters…


With De Jong’s status in world football on the rise, it was clear he was totally focused on the job of making City a force to be reckoned with. Going in to the 2010/2011 season, De Jong was feeling good.

“What makes it really hard for us, is that every team we play, sees us as the big favourite for the title. We are now a hot item in England only because our club have spent such a lot of money on new players. I am not saying they hate us in every stadium, but I do feel there is a tremendous amount of jealousy.

“I really think we must compete with Chelsea and Manchester United this season. Two years ago a new owner arrived here. Last year we laid the foundation, this year we have to fire from all cylinders. We must go and win trophies.

“We can’t expect it to be a smooth ride. United and Chelsea are established teams. Their players know exactly what it takes to win the league.’’

That summer, as Mancini set about building a team representative of his values, City had spent big, with David Silva, Jerome Boateng, Alexsander Kolarov, Mario Balotelli and James Milner all coming in. Yaya Toure also arrived for a fee of £24 million which saw talk of De Jong’s position being under threat begin to emanate.

“I see Yaya more as a central midfield player than a defensive midfield player. He has an attacking mind. I think together we can form a great partnership in midfield. It will be like a strong block. Besides, I have always been a regular player in the first team and I expect that will stay like that. Vincent Kompany and I are the only two players who have been with this club before the sheik arrived. So I think I am a player with a lot of experience at the club.’’

His place was safe. That season De Jong played 41 times for City and was one of the best performers in a side that qualified for the Champions League for the first time. It was also in May of that season that he finally tasted success in a blue shirt after playing a big role in the club’s FA Cup victory, their first trophy in 35 years. It was what De Jong had come to Manchester for – to help City win silverware and put them back on the footballing map. It was that first success that he claimed was the catalyst for what was to come.

“The FA Cup success gave us the taste for winning things. Manchester City hadn’t won anything with the group of players so, to win the FA Cup as a group last year, only made us hungry for more success because the enjoyment after no-one forgets. Every player in the squad wants that same feeling again. We just have to go for every prize.”

His final full season with the club saw the culmination of everything he had worked hard for during his time at The Etihad as City became champions of England for the first time since 1968. However, it was also the season that his role at City began to diminish as he played only 14 league games for the club, a statistic unthinkable during previous seasons, as Roberto Mancini looked for something different in order to push City to the next level. No one suffered more from Mancini’s switch to a more offensive style of play than De Jong.
Despite this shift in selection policy, he never once made inflammatory comments to forge a transfer. In fact, he often said all the right things.

“The team is the main thing now. Obviously everybody wants to play for themselves individually, but it’s not always going to happen, because we have a big squad. But for the team we just have to go now and try and win as many trophies as we can.”

However, Mancini had other ideas and he left City for AC Milan, a club with glorious tradition and a history of having great Dutch players. The signings of Rodwell and Javi Garcia offer an insight into Mancini thinking. Both are defensive players but both are arguably technically better with the ball. It seems De Jong’s limitations on the ball may have seen him fall victim of Mancini’s evolution. He was what Cantona termed ‘a water-carrier’; a non-flashy midfielder who would sit and break up play before giving the ball to players with more ability, something we may miss in the coming months and years.

His move to Milan is one he is relishing and he made his full debut in the recent 3-1 victory over Bologna.

“When I watched Milan in the 80s and the 90s, I dreamt of coming here to play for them. Finally I’m here at Milan and therefore I must thank Dutchmen like Van Basten, Gullit, Rijkaard and Seedorf. We have a young squad that needs to be built again, but I’m happy to be a part of this project. I want to contribute to the future success of Milan.”

No one can deny the history of AC Milan and It’s fitting that De Jong should get a move to such an esteemed club. Newspaper talk of a switch to QPR, where he would have been re-united with ex-City boss Mark Hughes, thankfully never materialised. De Jong deserves to wear the shirt of a great club – he is the ultimate professional – and every City fan wishes him well. He will always be remembered here in Manchester.

In Milan, De Jong didn’t get a lot of time to present himself. He copped a nasty injury and is still on a recovery trail. “I like what I’m seeing here in Milan. A lot. The Milan model resembles the Ajax model. Young players are offered a chance to show themselves.

A tore achilles ended his season early and slowly he is reclaiming his leadership role in midfield. De Jong has not seen a lot of new signings. “From what I hear, the club wants to secure CL football first. I’m sure they have a list of names, but the talents we have coming through are pretty good and I like this new model. AC Milan is in development now and if you want to offer the youth players a chance, you need to take time to do this.” De Jong was part of Man City which tried to buy success. His new club doesn’t work like that. “That is cool. There are more ways that lead to success. I think we are one of the favorites for the title and I am convinced we will do really well.” De Jong enjoyed playing PSV. “It will be quite a job to brush them off. They have done very well. It was an exciting game and very open. I thin PSV deserves credit for this. Their willingness to play their best was very positive. The game in Italy will be different though. We will simply do what we have to do and despite my sympathy for PSV, AC Milan will qualify.” Nigel de Jong was Karim Rekik’s mentor at Man City for years and the two forged a good friendship. Rekik calls Nigel “Uncle” and Nigel calls Rekik “Baby Tarzan”, for his physical development in Manchester City’s gym….

Here is a little clip of the Nigel de Jong of Ajax:

And this….

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