A product of the Ajax youth academy, Tobias earned his spurs at the famous Amsterdam Arena with two of his current teammates Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen. After helping Ajax secure their third straight Eredivisie Championship in the 2012/13 season, Alderweireld felt it was time to pursue a fresh challenge, and the Ajax 2009/10 Talent of the Year would not be short of suitors,with Atletico Madrid and Liverpool being the frontrunners vying for the services of the Belgian defender. Toby elected for Atletico Madrid, a team that was starting to take shape under the stewardship of former player Diego Simeone. Toby’s decision was understandable given Liverpool’s struggles the previous season, and them failing to offer any European football to a player already accustomed to regularly testing himself in the UEFA Champions League. The crucial decisive factor would be how early Atletico made contact with Toby’s representatives. By the time Liverpool’s interest had become concrete, Alderweireld had his sights firmly set on Madrid.
Frustrating times in the Spanish Capital & English South Coast Reprieve
Unfortunately for Toby, throughout the 2013/14 season Felipe Luis, Miranda, Godin and Juanfran formed a formidable defensive back line; boasting the meanest defence in La Liga. This would limit his chances to impress. Alderweireld would end the season with a mere 12 appearances in the league and 22 overall for Atletico, and although he could boast a League winners medal, and a Champions League final runner up medal, at the age of 25, Toby would not be satisfied with warming the bench for another season.
Cue Ronald Koeman. Koeman was manager of Ajax when Toby joined the youth ranks in 2004, and would have been aware of his rise to prominence in the Eredevisie given the managerial stints Koeman subsequently held with PSV, AZ Alkmaar, and Feyenoord after leaving Ajax in 2005. Recognising that Toby was after more playing time, when Liverpool’s flirtations with Dejan Lovren caused the player to go on strike to force through a move away from St Mary’s; Koeman saw Alderweireld as the perfect replacement to partner Jose Fonte. His partnership with Jose Fonte was instrumental in propelling Southampton into the European places. In fact by the end of the 2014/15 season only champions Chelsea could boast a meaner defence in the Premier League. Even after breaking a bone in his shoulder in mid April, Alderweireld played through the pain barrier to help Southampton’s cause as the season entered its final furlong.
Toby initially signed for Southampton on a season long loan with the necessary agreements in place to make the loan permanent at the end of the 2014/15 season all parties being happy. With how the season had gone, Southampton were eager to wrap up this transfer as soon as possible. However, complications arose once Tottenham Hotspur started to show concrete interest. It’s reported that the fee agreed between Southampton and Atletico was in the region of £7 Million, not much more than the fee Atletico had paid Ajax for Alderweireld’s services. However, reports suggest Southampton took too long to get the deal done, and subsequently Atletico were free to negotiate with the highest bidder thereafter. Cue Daniel Levy who at £11.5 million secured the services of Alderweireld for Tottenham, where Toby would be free to link up with former Ajax teammates, Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen as well as international teammates Moussa Dembele and Nacer Chadli.
Tottenham ended the 2014/15 season conceding 53 goals, the most of any club in the top 10 clubs in the Premier League, in fact only Leicester who ended the season 14th and the teams below them conceded more, so clearly the defensive area was an area that needed urgent addressing. The lack of an established solid CB partnership clearly was a problem throughout the season. Now with six games left to play Tottenham have only conceded 25 goals, the majority of the season Vertonghen and Alderweireld have been the preferred centre back pairing. Clearly the previous understanding and the undoubted quality of Toby has played a significant part in keeping the goals conceded to a minimum, and in a season where the ‘big boys’ have faltered, has propelled Tottenham Hotspur into an unlikely title challenge. Lately Vertonghen has been out with injury however the hit hasn’t been as hard with Alderweireld holding the fort, with an able backup in Kevin Wimmer.
Either way, Alderweireld acknowledges that he learnt his football at Ajax, but learnt how to defend at Atletico. Clearly Tottenham are reaping the rewards of the Total Defender that is a product of the development he has gone through at his previous clubs.