5 Reasons Why Tottenham Should Not Sell Jan Vertonghen
Vertonghen was bought for the scandalously low £9.5 million from Ajax to replace retiring Tottenham legend Ledley King. The Belgian performed so well that the former captain's absence was rarely mentioned.
Spurs had a new manager in Andre Villas-Boas and a new spine following King's retirement, the departures of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart and the signing of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Despite all the upheaval, Vertonghen was simply magnificent. A calm and reassuring presence in defence and a surprisingly important player in attack, he rapidly earned a reputation as one of the Premier League's finest defenders.
But Vertonghen's second season was a substantial disappointment. Amid managerial changes, tactical disagreements and injuries, Spurs' reliable defender became a liability. His attitude was readily questioned by the fans and his season came to a premature end following an injury in the north London derby.
As Spurs prepare for a new season under yet another new manager, should they persist with the unpredictable Belgian international? Do issues with form and a questionable attitude, as well as reported interest from Barcelona, per Neil Fissler of the Express, make this the right time for Spurs to turn a handy profit and sever ties with their centre-back?
Here are five reasons why Tottenham should not sell Jan Vertonghen.
He's a Strong Defender
Jan Vertonghen is, at his best, a very impressive defender. His excellent vision and reading of the game allow him to position himself in such a way that he is rarely forced to ground. Rather than dive into tackles, Vertonghen prefers to arrive in a timely fashion and lift the ball with minimum force.
Saying that, when he does go to ground in the tackle, he rarely concedes fouls and has provided some vital interventions with a well-timed sliding tackle. He is rarely beaten in one-on-one situations and is adept at moving to cover his defensive partner. Despite several notably disappointing performances last season, Vertonghen remains a more than capable Premier League defender.
He has rare co-ordination. His control of his body allows him to steal the ball when an attacker believes that he is protected. There is a grace to his defending that is uncommon in England.
Last season, Vertonghen's defending fell below the impressive standards of his first 12 months at Tottenham. If he can return to his best, Spurs would be foolish to dispense with him.
He Plays a Key Tactical Role
A central defender that excels in attacking play is not a new phenomenon. Players like Franz Beckenbauer and Bobby Moore popularised this dual role, and it has become common for at least one member of a central-defensive pairing to be a strong passer of the ball.
This facilitates quick breaks, as the centre-back sets counter-attacks away immediately after winning possession. Such a player can also create overloads when an opposition defence is set.
Vertonghen is capable in the first role but excels in the second. Having developed at Ajax, the progenitors of total football, his sense of when to move beyond the ball as a passing option is well honed, while his intelligent movement off the ball leaves defenders bamboozled.
The Belgian's somewhat fortunate goal against Manchester United in 2012 showed the impact that this quality can have. When he scored against Swansea in March 2013, he exemplified the difference that he can make.
His ability to deputise at left-back is another facet of his tactical quality. While he doesn't enjoy playing as a full-back, he has regularly impressed when asked to play that role. Vertonghen's flexibility makes him a very valuable player.
He Provides Balance to a Defensive Partnership
Vertonghen is not a particularly physical defender but provides the necessary balance to a more aggressive partner.
Younes Kaboul and Mateo Musacchio (who is yet to sign) are aggressive and strong defenders who enjoy a battle but lack the relative intelligence that Vertonghen possesses. In combination with Vertonghen's intelligence and quality in possession, Spurs have the necessary ingredients of a modern central-defensive partnership.
If Spurs are to build a defensive partnership around Musacchio or Kaboul, Vertonghen is the ideal partner. His intelligent and poised defending make Spurs' defence more flexible and more capable of dealing with threats.
Always available for a pass, Vertonghen also takes pressure off his fellow defenders and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. He is capable of taking possession anywhere on the field and making use of the ball, rather than simply disposing of it.
Mauricio Pochettino is attempting to instill a quick-break mentality at Spurs this season. Throughout pre-season, Tottenham have looked to rapidly turn defence into attack, and Vertonghen will play a crucial role in that system.
He possesses a coolness under pressure that makes other players more comfortable. Whichever defender Pochettino chooses to play alongside Vertonghen, they will be stronger for his presence.
He Is the Elder Statesman for Spurs
At 27 years old, Jan Vertonghen is the senior man in the Spurs defence. Assuming that Tottenham complete the signing of Mateo Musacchio, Tottenham's back line would likely be Ben Davies (21), Kyle Walker (24), Mateo Musacchio (23) and Vertonghen.
The Belgian's relative experience will be key for Spurs in the coming season. He can lead the back line and help his younger teammates to develop as a unit. More than simply age, Vertonghen has significant international experience that can only enhance his position among Spurs' youthful squad.
He has also won trophies with Ajax, experience that gives him that certain swagger that's always present in winning teams.
He Has a Winner's Attitude
Vertonghen's attitude was often questioned last season. Glenn Hoddle questioned him for smiling before the Manchester City match at the Etihad Stadium and many fans were critical of a perceived lack of interest on the pitch. It was clear that, at times, Vertonghen was frustrated by his team-mates and was somewhat unprofessional in allowing that to affect his own play.
While this is problematic, it is also symptomatic of Vertonghen's footballing arrogance. He always wants to win and is not interested in playing for sixth place. He showed disdain for the performances of some team-mates last season, sentiments shared by many who watch Tottenham regularly disappoint.
Admittedly, Vertonghen trod the limits of acceptable behaviour at times last season but it reflects a single-minded approach that should help Spurs develop.
His focus on winning will help the development of Tottenham's younger team. Great players and great teams always possess that same kind of arrogance. The insistence that Spurs should always win is a helpful mindset.
Vertonghen's swagger could come to define a successful Tottenham. His refusal to accept mediocrity is something that Spurs should embrace.
If Mauricio Pochettino is the man to lead Spurs out of the seemingly perpetual cycle of falling just short of joining the elite, Jan Vertonghen is the perfect man to help him. A mature defender who provides leadership and contributes in every area, the Belgian is man around whom Spurs must build. To sell him would be madness; there is simply no club willing to pay what he is worth to Tottenham.