By James Nalton, Football Whispers
Since moving to Tottenham Hotspur, Toby Alderweireld has developed into the best defender in the Premier League and can now be ranked as one of the top centre backs in Europe.
The Belgian’s first taste of English football was with Southampton, who he joined in 2014 on loan from Atletico Madrid. The south coast club were disappointed that they couldn’t make the deal a permanent one, as they believed a clause in his loan contract gave them the rights to pay a £6.8million fee to sign the player outright.
However, the Spanish club were able to reclaim the player they bought from Ajax for just over £6million in 2013, and eventually sell him to Spurs for a £11.5million.
It was still a bargain for the north London club, but they now face the prospect of their prized asset leaving the club for a knockdown fee in 2019 when a £25million release clause will come into play.
Even though this is two years down the line, by that time the Belgian will be 30 years old and, should he stay free from injury, he could be reaching his peak years as a defender, combining experience with physicality.
There are now murmurs that the player would like to leave before this date, and the noises coming from his camp have echoed a number of concerns voiced by other Spurs players in recent times.
Alderweireld’s departure could be the start of a Tottenham exodus, but it could be argued that the early signs of such a movement have already begun to emerge.
Since the departures of Gareth Bale and Luka Modric to Real Madrid, the club have rarely lost players they didn’t want to lose.
That was until this summer when Manchester City offered big money for Kyle Walker, but with the impressive Kieran Trippier in reserve, and the signing of Serge Aurier, this key sale might not hit the club too hard.
But Walker’s move upset his compatriot and fellow full back Danny Rose, who let rip at the Spurs hierarchy for the way they go about their recruitment and hinted that many of the players at the club aren’t being paid what they’re worth.
Alderweireld was next in line to step forward and show some concern over the club’s wage structure, and the player’s agent Stijn Francis had some harsh words to say about the club.
“If you only look at his figures, Toby is impressive and for his performances, he deserves either a better contract from Tottenham or a transfer,” he said.
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“Even after his injury he recovered. Tottenham’s statistics fell sharply during his absence. For a transfer, you know that he can only leave Tottenham for seven or eight teams and almost all the other top clubs are interested in Toby.
“There are not a lot of central defenders of his kind so they are sought after. But those clubs also know that they have to negotiate with [chairman] Daniel Levy.”
While Mauricio Pochettino may have been able to cover for Walker by operating shrewdly in the transfer market and using the considerable talent already at his disposal in that position, further departures in key areas would be difficult to cover for.
Though their new centre back and record signing Davinson Sanchez has great potential, if he were to come into a side which was constantly being disrupted then it may be difficult to settle in.
Were he to replace the Belgian, he would be starting his career in England alongside a right back who’s in the same situation under a manager whose style is very demanding and may take some time to adapt to, regardless of how good the player is.
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The departure of someone like Alderweireld would make other players begin to question their own contracts, and players’ agents don’t need much encouragement in order to begin looking for better deals for themselves and their clients.
If one or two players decide to leave the club for pastures new, then it can unsettle the team unit and in the worst case it can begin to negatively affect the results on the pitch.
If other players such as Alderweireld’s fellow former Ajax star Christian Eriksen, or even the likes of Dele Alli and Harry Kane receive lucrative offers from England or abroad — as could well happen with Kane given his rare all-round ability up front — then Tottenham could be unrecognisable in a few years time.
The club have cruised along for some time with a fairly settled squad of high quality players signed for reasonable transfer fees over a number of seasons, but this work could be undone in much less time than it took to complete if the club are miserly with their wages.
Alderweireld is just the latest player to come forward with concerns, and the worry for Spurs fans is that he might not be the last.