Tottenham Hotspur and Toby Alderweireld have been in talks regarding his contract for at least a year now. With just a few days until the winter transfer window opens for 2019, the situation hasn’t changed: Toby is under contract and wants a new deal, and rightfully so. The defender has been a vital cog for Tottenham’s defense since he made the move from Atletico Madrid for a Levy Bargain Basement Special of just £11.6m back in 2015. Even that move had some drama as the Belgian International spent a year on loan at Southampton before making the jump to Spurs, but not before the south shore club raised a stink about it.
The hold up with the contract has primarily been the wage demands of Alderweireld and his agent, who reportedly have told Levy he wants over £150k/week. Levy has balked at this, reportedly offering as high as £130k/week, but nothing more. On top of this, Alderweireld has not budged on the length of the contract that he wants, which is five years. This created the impasse but, to Toby and the club’s credit, they’ve somehow not managed to rip each other to shreds in the media because Toby is still playing regularly and the club seems fine with it.
Today, there’s been some movement. Sky Sports is reporting that Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed that the club will activate the year extension option in Alderweireld’s contract. When this option is activated exactly, we do not know. Our guess is that the club will wait until after the winter window is closed to activate it, meaning Toby’s contract now runs through the end of the 2019-2020 season.
Of course, this now triggers the clause in Alderweireld’s contract that means he can leave in the next window for just £25m and there’s nothing the club can do about it. Daniel Levy, as we all know, hates release clauses but he didn’t have much of a choice in this one apparently. While we don’t know what happened with Toby’s initial contract and why this was in there, we do know that the club was hesitant last year to activate the option since Manchester United were sniffing around. Jose Mourinho, then the manager at United, made it pretty clear he wanted Alderweireld in his back line. Opting not to activate the clause allowed Levy to tell Mourinho to either pay his price, which was reportedly as high as £75m, or he could pound sand.
It came out just after the summer window closed that Pochettino addressed every player and gave them a clean slate. Whatever had happened in the past was just that: In the past. It didn’t matter if it was being in the doghouse, contract negotiations, etc. This seemed to work as Toby was restored to the squad this year and there has been little to no news to report on his contract until today.
So what does this mean ultimately? There’s only a few directions this can go.
1) Spurs will wait until after the winter window and activate the clause, knowing full well that someone will come for him in the summer for £25m, so long as they can meet his wage demands. This is the most likely scenario.
2) Spurs will look for a buyer in January before activating the clause after the window in an attempt to get more for him. This is not very likely, given there’s no reason to tip your hand if this is the direction you’re going.
3) Spurs are still wanting to keep Toby long-term and activating this clause is a gesture of good faith, essentially telling Toby that he can leave in the summer and the club won’t stand in the way. Plausible, but not as likely as the first option.
In the end, I think it’s safe to say that Toby is probably leaving in the summer. He will be 30 years old in March and, while he’s been one of the best defenders in the world for Tottenham, it seems to be his final year in north London unless something drastically changes. I think we had all resigned ourselves to him leaving in the summer and, when that didn’t happen, it was more of just a delay in the inevitable. Do I want him to stay? Absolutely. At the same time, the club will make a profit on him no matter what and can re-invest in a younger player.
This saga is still ongoing, but after a few months of silence, the next chapter has finally been written.