It's Day 3 of "Inside Tottenham" week at Bleacher Report UK, and Wednesday's feature is an exclusive interview with Spurs and Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen.
Vertonghen, 26, joined Spurs from Ajax in 2012 and quickly acclimatised to life in the Premier League under Andre Villas-Boas. A Belgium regular, he will travel to the 2014 World Cup as part of a golden generation tipped by many as potential challengers in Brazil.
Bleacher Report: How much did you know about Tottenham before you signed for the club?
Jan Vertonghen: I like to think I know quite a lot about English football, and I did my homework on the club and its great history before I came here. I was proud to join a team like this.
B/R: Have you found it easy to settle in London, and what are the biggest contrasts to the Netherlands?
JV: I think I enjoy life in England because there is a lot of respect amongst the people here. People are very nice to each other—they are respectful, particularly of traditions, which I like. I enjoyed life in the Netherlands also, but I am very much settled in London.
B/R: How would you describe your role in the Spurs dressing room? Do you look to be a leader? Are you a vocal motivator? Or are you content to stay part of the group?
JV: I don’t try to be a different person from who I am at home. I am who I am, and I try to influence the team in my own way, especially with my performances on the pitch. If possible, I try to help the team in the dressing room as well by offering encouragement where needed.
B/R: As a central defender, how have you found the pace of the Premier League? Have you had to adapt your approach in any way?
JV: The pace is unbelievable in the Premier League. It must be the most difficult league to play in because every game is hard and every team is strong—especially this year. I have had to adapt, but I am pleased with how I have done and how I have prepared myself.
B/R: Do you read match reports and opinion pieces about your performance? If so, do you ever learn from them, or have you learned to ignore them?
JV: No, I never read those kinds of things. I think it would drive you crazy! I think I can judge myself quite well, and we have performance analysts and coaches at the club who can give you some advice if necessary. And that’s the most important thing for me. I know when I play well, and the gaffer and the technical staff are there to tell me if not.
B/R: How would you describe Andre Villas-Boas’ philosophy at Spurs? Are there similarities with what you experienced at Ajax?
JV: I think we are both attacking sides. At Tottenham, we want to be a side that can please the crowd, and I think that’s the main similarity with Ajax. We both play a very positive style of football.
B/R: What’s a typical afternoon off involve for Jan Vertonghen? Do you golf? Are you a video games guy?
JV: A bit of both, but I also like to read. It takes me a long time to get away from the training ground because I take my rest after training, I do my exercises here and get a massage, so I don’t have a proper afternoon off most of the time. I come home, I chill for a bit, I have dinner and I relax.
B/R: Who is your room-mate of choice on a Tottenham away trip, and why?
JV: Usually one of my fellow countrymen, Mousa Dembele or Nacer Chadli, but I get along with all of the guys: Christian Eriksen, Lewis Holtby and the English lads. I also spend a lot of time with the French players because I speak the language, but my best friend at the club is Mousa, who I have known from a young age.
B/R: Aside from technical ability, what’s the main difference between players who make it as far as you do and those who fall short in their late teens?
JV: I think the main thing for anyone is that you have to enjoy football. Football still is my hobby, I do it in my spare time, like when I’m on holiday. Growing up in Belgium, I played football all of the time, in the garden, on the street. Football was my life and still is my life, and I think that is what has helped me to be the player I am now.
B/R: It’s a good time to be Belgian. Do you think the Belgium national team have got lucky with a chance golden generation? Or is there something at work in the Belgium youth system that English football could learn from?
JV: I am very lucky to play in a national team like this at the moment. Sometimes you have to be lucky; look at Spain, look at what Ajax did in the 1990s. You have to be lucky with a certain generation, and I think we are a bit lucky with this Belgian generation.