Toby Alderweireld has mostly kept quiet the past season, to his credit. He hasn’t spoken out to the media about his situation at Tottenham Hotspur, and what we know about his injury and his contract has come through either his agent or through leaks to the media. In the meantime, Toby has kept his head down, played football when he could, and not caused a fuss.
That’s important context to know when it comes to a recent interview with Belgian outlet De Zondag, in which Toby talks a little about his current situation at Spurs, the World Cup, and his personal life. The interview is fascinating, and not just because Toby finally opens up a little about the past year in north London, but also because he’s clearly a thoughtful and conscientious person who is trying to do the right thing for himself and for others. And even when he talks about Spurs he does so respectfully and without throwing anyone under the bus.
Here’s how Toby answered when asked about football salaries in general, and his Tottenham future in specifics. (Note: quotes are slightly modified from Google Translate for clarity)
The wages of football players are often under attack. How do you see that?
That’s double. Football players deserve absolutely enough. But that’s the market. Someone wants to pay that. Who would not agree? I just said that I always try to do the right thing. For example, I pay taxes in the country where I play. I always did that. I’m not going to some tax haven.
Like other top footballers.
I only look at myself. I could not do that. In England, two percent of the taxes of footballers go to health care and social security. I think that’s a nice principle. In this way we contribute to society.
How do you see your future? Is that at Tottenham?
My contract [at Spurs] lasts another two years. Tottenham decides my future. Of course I have my own idea, but that is not the case now. The past season was tough, but I’m glad that I could play the last four matches. That means that I am ready for the World Cup.
I don’t want to read too much into these comments, but it does suggest that Toby wants out of Spurs. If he didn’t, he would be talking more about trying to come to an agreement with the club and not about “having his own idea.” That idea probably involves getting a really big contract with a weekly wage that’s at or close to what he deserves. And he pretty clearly thinks he’s not going to get that at Tottenham.
Toby also gave a glimpse into his future career path, suggesting that he thinks he has another six good years left in him before he hangs up his boots and tries something else.
What would you have done [if you weren’t a footballer]?
I wonder that too. I sometimes fear an early midlife crisis. I have not been able to do enough crazy things in my life. (laughs) Note: football players have a nice life. We have our business financially well organized. That makes for a peace of mind, especially now that I become a father. But that does not mean that everything is rosy and moonshine.
Your sacrifices have paid. Recently, even José Mourinho said that you are one of the best defenders worldwide. What does that do to you?
That makes me proud. But I would never say that to myself. I only see the sides to be improved. I still have many shortcomings. Perhaps I will only be able to enjoy my career after my career.
Do you already know what you want to do after your career?
No. I think I have six top years ahead of me. That is my first focus. Then I will have lived abroad for twenty years and it is time for my family. We are now looking for building land in Antwerp. So I definitely want to return. I am also drawing up a plan with my father for my career. I would like to take an active engagement for society. For example, I think of a football square in a difficult neighborhood. I am not someone who gives his name to a charity for his image. I want to roll up my sleeves myself.
The easy thing for fans to do after a player departs their club is to try and convince themselves that player is no longer worth their attention. I have a hard time doing that with Toby. By all accounts he is an exceptionally good person, a father-to-be, is socially aware, and wants to give something back to the community. How can you be mad at him?
We don’t yet know what will happen to Toby this summer — he could be sold, he could hang around for another season and leave next summer via his release clause. Either way, I can say that it has been a privilege having him as a member of my club and I hope in the end he gets what he wants.