Since SuperJan joined us in 2012/13 he has been pretty much the only solid in an invariably liquid and often smelly defence. He’s captain in all but name and is a firm fan favourite. So if all is going so well, why is this a big season for Jan Vertonghen?
He has the smell of fear in his nostrils is why. Fear, that at the age of 28 he may be in danger of missing his chance to play regularly on Europe’s bigger stages and also fear that his place at the heart of our defence may be in peril.
Jan’s body language when asked to play at left back, his delay in signing a contract extension and the constant impression (true or untrue) given by the media that it’s only a matter of time before he makes a move to Barcelona have all helped give the Belgian a sort of air of impermanence. When he came to the club we’d finished fourth for the second time in three seasons, the new stadium was imminent and in Gareth Bale and Rafael Van der Vaart we had one of Europe’s brightest stars and biggest talismans respectively. He would’ve thought that this was the prime time to join a club on the up. Unfortunately for him though (and us) it didn’t quite work out like that. Vertonghen has, in a sense, presided over our mini decline; Kyle Walker is the only member of the eleven in which he made his debut still at the club and since then, two managers have been and gone.
“If it doesn’t work out here, I’ll just get a move to somewhere even more glamorous than N17”…or maybe not. We’ve all seen the stats about only Oscar Pistorius having a worse defence than us and I’m sure the representatives of Europe’s top clubs have too. That sort of stuff sticks.
But that’s not the worse scenario. What if our defence is suddenly tighter than a George Osborne budget but Vertonghen’s not in it!! Four centre backs have been signed in the last year. At least two of them are good players, Dier and Alderweireld; one I think we’re probably due to see not much more of, Fazio, and the fourth is currently an unknown, Kevin Wimmer. What if these young go-getting whippersnappers are the Vertonghens of three years ago, all pace, tough tackling and half a dozen goals a year? Where does he stand then? Does he start wondering whether left back isn’t such a bad place to be after all? Who will be delaying contract talks then? He’ll certainly know that a future in Catalonia is more likely to be with Espanyol than Barca.
So in summary, he can’t afford a bad season; in fact he can’t afford an average season, it has to be a good one. Nine months of stewarding and shepherding a successful Tottenham back four will open doors and the whole of Europe will be his lobster. At the very least it’ll get him the offer of a new and lucrative deal from us. Anything else and a seat in the Departure Lounge that’s been so busy this summer may have his name on it.
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