When your star centre-back is only 28 and his contract is up in the summer of 2019, you’d be scrambling around the negotiating table to hammer out a deal, right? This is the case facing Tottenham and Toby Alderweireld.
However, despite being regarded as one of the league’s leading centre-halves, Alderweireld finds himself in a strange predicament. Struggling with his comeback from a long layout, Spurs have reportedly refused to give into his exorbitant wage demands, and are also hesitant about exercising his one-year extension because it includes a £25 million release clause.
With both parties at loggerheads, it leaves the club with little other option than potentially having to sell their star centre-back this summer.
So, where might Big Toby pitch up?
Despite the resurgence of Phil Jones (Newcastle performance aside), José Mourinho still finds himself saddled with defensive fragility, and Alderweireld could just be the commanding figure to resolve that.
Though there is hardly a dearth of centre-backs at the club, Mourinho doesn’t seem to trust a single one of them. Eric Bailly has hamstrings made out of glass, Victor Lindelof looks like he’d struggle to stay upright in a stiff breeze, and Marcos Rojo genuinely can’t go a single game without attempting to murder someone on the pitch. As for Chris Smalling, the fact he continues to steal a career as a Premier League centre-half is the greatest act of deception since Ali Dia convinced Graeme Souness he was the next George Weah.
So, with patience in very short supply with Mourinho, it makes sense to pull the trigger and leap for a trusted centre-half now. Especially if the Special One has designs on actually challenging for the title next season.
Yes, they’re linked with everybody, but at a time when the record Champions League winners are in somewhat of a state of flux, Alderweireld makes a lot of sense.
They’ve pretty much written off any chances of catching Barcelona this season, in part down to everyone suddenly remembering Benzema is absolute bollocks. But it’s at the other end where their real instabilities have been exposed.
Without Ronaldo’s frankly ridiculous goal-scoring feats, Madrid’s backline has been revealed as less stable than a Theresa May press conference. Sure, Ramos is regarded as one of the game’s finest centre-halves, but at nearly 32 and with 24 red cards to his name, his reputation for reliability is taking somewhat of a hammering. Alderweireld could at least bring some security.
They may be nailed-on La Liga winners, but the Blaugrana recently waved farewell to Javier Mascherano and with Gerard Pique also operating on a weekly basis of giving absolutely zero fucks about football, Alderweireld could be an affordable remedy to a potential defensive crisis on the horizon.
Like his Spurs compatriot Vertonghen, Big Tobe is comfortable playing out from the back which would complement Barca’s possession-based football completely. Alderweireld and Umtiti is a frightening combination of power and pace.
The only misgiving Barca fans might have is the other Belgian centre-half they signed in recent times has managed only 19 appearances in three full seasons thanks to having knees moulded from old plasticine. Here’s to you, Thomas Vermaelen.
They will literally buy anyone.
Pep does like a defender who can play out from the back, but the master Spanish tactician also loathes any footballer who can bench-press north of 100 kilos.
In his time as City boss, resident heavyweights Kolarov and Bony have seen the exit, while fellow Belgian man-mountain Vincent Kompany spent one training session chucking weights around with WWE superstars Sheamus and Cesaro and can’t get back in the side for love nor money.
With Big Tobe weighing in at a hefty 92 kilos and looking like he could wrestle an adult bear into submission, no amount of raking crossfield balls in behind opposition full-backs are going to get him in Pep’s side.
For all the speculation, Daniel Levy has long insisted that Spurs are not in the business of selling their best footballers (do not ever mention Luka Modric and Gareth Bale; they are dead to him!) and if Spurs are intent on breaking the Manchester-West London stranglehold on the Premier League, they may well simply agree to Alderweireld’s wage demands.
It is reported the Belgian is seeking parity with the club’s big earners, Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris. A year ago, you’d have to agree with his rationale, but since the signing of Sanchez and Foyth, and with Eric Dier more than capable of playing at centre-half, Alderweireld’s situation does appear less secure.
Even so, despite the impressive start Davinson Sanchez has made at the club, there is simply no discounting the proven Premier League experience that comes with Toby Alderweireld.
Essentially, Spurs are at an interesting crossroads: put their faith in youth and relative affordability; or spend extremely big to retain attested quality.