Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino reportedly offered all of his players a “clean slate” after the close of the English transfer window last month, and few players have had their status improved by that offer as much as Toby Alderweireld. Once marginalized after coming back from injury and via a long-term contract dispute, Toby has returned to Tottenham’s starting lineup beside his Belgian international partner Jan Vertonghen, and Spurs have been the better for it.
That sure didn’t seem like it would happen. All of the news coming out of the Spurs camp last spring and summer suggested that Alderweireld was actively agitating for a huge new deal away from Spurs via his agent, with Manchester United the most likely destination. However, in quotes printed in the Evening Standard (and elsewhere) today, Toby has said that the reports about his mindset were overblown.
“Everyone was saying everywhere that I absolutely wanted to leave Tottenham. That’s not true. This summer, I quickly understood Tottenham wanted to keep me. So, I had to battle to get my place back in the team. To be in the first team again is a victory for me.”
Those are really, really nice words to hear coming from Toby, and are designed to soothe fans who (like me) are still a little antsy about his long term prospects in the team. I’m not sure I fully believe them.
If I try to look at things from Toby’s perspective, I guess I can envision a scenario where he might consider leaving. After his injury against Real Madrid in the Champions League, Toby was out for months and in the process lost his place in the side to Davinson Sanchez, who played very well. Even after his return, he claimed he was match fit but continued to be left out of the side. That was probably super frustrating, and I can certainly understand Toby considering a departure, especially if match minutes were no longer guaranteed.
To be clear, Toby has said all the right things all summer long as his contract and transfer sagas dragged on and on. He should be credited as being a model professional — he never once slagged off Tottenham, Mauricio Pochettino, or his situation, even when it sure seemed like he wanted that last big move to Manchester United.
However, those lovely quotes are undercut by the fact that Toby still hasn’t signed a new contract with Spurs, and as things stand now he can potentially leave Tottenham for a bid of £25m. That’s significantly less than his current value in today’s market, and it still gives him significant leverage in negotiations.
Maybe this summer has proven to him and his agent that his value perhaps isn’t as big as what they thought it was, and if he’s still content at Spurs he might decide to stay at Tottenham for an improved contract, but not the mega-bucks deal he was hoping for. But until he puts that pen to paper, all the nice words he’s saying about Spurs doesn’t change the fact that he turned down a (reportedly very good) new deal because he wanted to make more money. That’s still hanging over everything, and will remain so until he either leaves, or commits his future to Spurs.