There aren’t many players, barring the academy graduates, who have been at Tottenham Hotspur longer than Jan Vertonghen. Signed in the summer of 2014, under Mauricio Pochettino’s guidance he has blossomed into one of the best defenders in the Premier League, alongside his Belgian teammate Toby Alderwiereld.
And it doesn’t appear he’s interested in moving on anytime soon. Speaking exclusively to Dan Kilpatrick in the Evening Standard, the 31-year old Vertonghen said that he’s happy at Spurs and would love to extend his stay in north London... but would like to return to Ajax one day.
“I’ve got a contract until 2020 — there’s an option and Tottenham will take that option. So I’ve got a year and a half left and then we’ll see. The way I feel now, I’ve got at least four to five good years left in the tank.
“There are no talks [with the club], but that’s something to discuss. At the moment I feel great at Tottenham. It’s a club with unbelievable potential — not just the players but everything around it. Everyone wants to be part of it.
“You never know [what the future holds], but I’ve got a great passion for Ajax. I’d probably live in Amsterdam [when I retire]. I can see myself in Belgium a day or two a week with family — it’s only an hour and half drive. My missus is from there. I love the open environment, people being open-minded. I lived there for nine years, it’s a nice city. It has a good quality of life and diversity.”
The camaraderie amongst the players at Spurs is perhaps the driving factor in Vertonghen wanting to stay. The team is especially close, with players bonding off the training pitch through board games like Uno, Settlers of Catan, and chess, activities depicted through the social media posts of players like Jan, Eric Dier, and Dele Alli.
Vertonghen says he’s a serious competitor when it comes to games, to the extent that he still hasn’t played chess against his childhood friend Mousa Dembele because neither wants to lose to the other one.
“It’s a game without excuses, so for a footballer it’s very hard to play. If we play each other and I win, you’re stupid. That’s how we think, especially me and Mousa. We play online against people we don’t know. If Eric Dier beats me, he can call me stupid until I beat him. When it’s brains versus brains, there’s no saying, ‘Your bishop got lucky there’. Eric beat me the last time — he’s a bright guy — but I think overall I’m up.
“I love the environment at Spurs. This group sees each other off the pitch so much. Coffees or just hanging out, because we like each other. We love playing games. I’m addicted — not video games, but board games. And we have quite a good bunch like that. Uno is for the training ground. Settlers of Catan was more when Nacer Chadli was around — that’s a demanding game.”
That’s one of the factors that will hopefully drive this team towards a title of some kind, something Vertonghen says the club deserves. This isn’t just a club of talented players — they all like each other, and the manager. Compare that to Manchester United, a club stocked with talent but that has fractured internally under Jose Mourinho to the point that they have vastly underperformed the past few seasons. The Spurs players all get along and play for eachother as much as they do the manager. That, says Jan, could be what allows Sisyphus to finally push that boulder over the hill.
“This group of players deserve something together. It would be a shame not to win something. We need to reward ourselves for all the work, for all the talent that we have. We’ve reached an unbelievable level. Take the best Barca side, I don’t think we’re far from that. We’re still in every tournament and that’s how you spread the odds of winning something. We’re going to be very close this season.”