Why Tottenham must hold onto Toby Alderweireld
There hasn't been much glee at Wembley. Instead of strengthening, Tottenham Hotspur is sweating to hold onto key players. Toby Alderweireld leads the allegedly disgruntled group. At whatever cost, Spurs must keep the Belgian.
All is not well between Spurs and Alderweireld. The parties have failed to reach an agreement over a new deal owing to the Belgian's wage demands. With only one year left, Alderweireld is hoping for an improved offer. Tottenham, meanwhile, are adamant regarding their salary structure.
The Lilywhites could be forced into auctioning off the centre-half. Not just for perceived exorbitant terms but fitness issues, even though he rebuffed that notion with stellar performances at the World Cup. Manchester United have been sniffing around. Paris Saint-Germain, too. Tottenham will be wrong to let him go.
Alderweireld has been imperious since joining from Atletico Madrid in 2015. He has been an integral part of Mauricio Pochettino's defence. Appearing in every single match in his first season, Alderweireld started 30 times the following campaign.
Those two years coincided with a significant defensive improvement at the club. Spurs boasted the best defensive record in the league both seasons, conceding just 35 then 26 goals. In the season before Alderweireld's arrival, they flaunted the division's fifth-worst defensive record, shipping 53 goals.
Alderweireld struggled to stay fit last season. He managed just three Premier League starts. In his absence, Mauricio Pochettino lost some doggedness and intimidation at the back. The North Londoners relinquished their defensive crown to the Manchester sides.
Jan Vertonghen sorely missed his cohort. Alderweireld’s solid partnership with his compatriot was the crux of Spurs' success. Davinson Sanchez showed great promise but the Colombian is just 21. His form dropped considerably towards season's end, a natural symptom in younger players
There were also encouraging signs from Juan Foyth. The Argentine youngster was used primarily in the cup competitions. He isn't quite ready for regular Premier League exposure. The future is bright for Spurs defensively, but still a ways off. Retaining Alderweireld for a couple more years will ease the transition.
Jose Mourinho’s obsession with the 29-year-old is understandable. Alderweireld is the prototypical modern central defender, calm and comfortable with or without the ball. His passing accuracy was 86% last term. It surged to 90 in Russia. Alderweild doesn’t just pass for possession's sake. He reads the game skilfully.
Proven rearguards of the Belgian's quality are rare. The few available rightfully command inflated prices in the market. Virgil van Dijk set the new standard in January with his £75 million move from Southampton to Liverpool. Tottenham CEO Daniel Levy is notorious for extracting maximum value for his players. Kyle Walker went to Manchester City for £45 million as a right back last summer. Van Dijk's fee will be a starting point for any negotiation in the short time remaining in this window. The fact business concludes on 9 August works in Pochettino's favour unless PSG continues its pursuit. The coach surely wants to keep his defender in white.
Daniel Levy emphasises the bottom rather than the finish line. To date, his fiscal policy has served Tottenham well. However, for the sake of the progress, he must push it to the limits to keep Alderweireld happy. The defender more than deserves it.