One of the almost unmitigated success stories at Spurs this season has been Jan Vertonghen. The Belgian defender has been a crucial presence in Spurs back line, whether at centre back or at left back in the absence of Assou-Ekotto and Naughton.
He has also spoken well in interviews and given the all-round impression that he will be an excellent player for the club for years to come, and perhaps one day a captain as well. If only there was another Jan Vertonghen.
In a way there is. Toby Alderweireld shares a number of the attributes that have made Vertonghen such a success in England (for a start he's Belgian, and all Belgians are now seemingly good footballers), and even formed a formidable partnership with the Spurs man when they played together at Ajax. Alderweireld is tall and strong, but also has the technical ability that Vertonghen has displayed at Spurs.
He can pick a long pass, and also bring the ball out of the defence to begin moves. Also just as the Spurs defender can shift to left back comfortably, Alderweireld can move to right back if required, as he has done for the Belgian national side.
Alderweireld has come on strong this season, and his club have needed him to with the departure of Vertonghen. Alderweireld has been at the heart of their displays in Europe, including the recent victory over Manchester City.
His performances have not gone unnoticed, and Spurs will likely face competition from a host of top clubs if he does leave Ajax. Alderweireld is currently valued at around £8 million, but if he continues to impress in the Champions League, demand could see that price rise in the summer. Indeed perhaps the only reason his price has remained low is the surfeit of excellent defenders at international level that have kept him in the shade, and focus on Vertonghen in past years at Ajax.
At 23, Alderweireld is one of the highest rated defensive prospects in Europe, and Spurs or any other club would do well to make a move for him sooner rather than later. Ajax would likely be keen to hold onto him at least until the summer, as they have already had to replace Vertonghen this year, but come June they can expect plenty of sides to be making enquiries about Toby Alderweireld.
image: © mikehamm