In our latest instalment of the Flashback series, we take a look back at a certain moment and look at how things might have changed those initial reactions.
Back in the summer of 2015, Toby Alderweireld moved from Atletico Madrid to Tottenham Hotspur.
Arriving via Southampton, where he had played the year before, the switch had been shrouded in controversy, with the Saints believing they had been obliged to take the Belgian from the Spanish outfit permanently once his loan deal had expired.
Spurs became the beneficiaries of Atletico’s refusal to return Alderweireld to the south coast on the cheap, instead cashing in as the centre-back moved to North London for £14.4m.
Under Mauricio Pochettino, also formerly of Southampton, Alderweireld has become an integral part of Spurs’ backline over the last few years, helping to steer the club towards a first Champions League final, thanks to a dramatic victory at another former club in Ajax.
But ever since then, Spurs and Alderweireld have endured nothing but misery, not least in losing the Champions League final to Liverpool, but with the club embarking on a horrendous run of form, which has, to this point, left Spurs languishing in mid-table in the autumn months.
Given Alderweireld’s arrival coincided with Spurs challenging for the title, the current arc of the 30-year-old’s Tottenham career is well and truly in its downward phase. So where has it all gone wrong? Has Alderweireld gone off the boil, or has the opportunity to win major honours at Spurs simply passed him by?
His presence in defence would suggest that Alderweireld has carried a knack for keeping attacks quiet – wherever he went. At Atletico Madrid, opportunities weren’t too common, but still only allowed eight goals in 12 La Liga appearances on the way to an unlikely title triumph.
At Southampton, only 2014/15 champions Chelsea had a tighter defence as the Saints finished seventh, while Alderweireld’s personal concession rate improved along with Spurs’ league position – plummeting from 0.89 to 0.52 goals per game in the season Spurs finished Premier League runners-up.
Spurs would not have been blamed for thinking they were onto a winner with Alderweireld, but it could be argued that is where his career peaked.
A hamstring injury heavily disrupted his 2017/18 campaign, during which he made just 14 league appearances, and has since seen his numbers regress to their former levels.
Last season, Alderweireld conceded over a goal per game in the Champions League despite the run to the final, while the start to this season is off the charts, allowing 1.38 goals per game – his worst numbers since first leaving for England five years ago.
So with Spurs arguably as far away from contention for major honours as they were when he joined, perhaps the Belgian would have been better off furthering his career somewhere else – though it may be too little, too late given he was not snapped up in the summer with a £25m price tag legally pinned onto him.
Though with the amount of trophies in their cabinet no greater since his arrival, considering a now potentially past-it Alderweireld is hardly producing for Spurs at the level he once did, his early Tottenham career suggests the club simply missed the chance to mark his arrival with the trophies it deserved.
Spurs fans, can the club still be successful with Alderweireld as part of the defence – or are the team’s problems elsewhere? Join the discussion by commenting below!
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