Vertonghen opens up on “extremely special” tie against former club

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Tottenham have as many as four first-team players in their squad who have all played for Ajax before, in Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Christian Eriksen and Davinson Sanchez.

This connection ads an extra bit of drama ahead of the Champions League semifinal clash between the sides.

Jan Vertonghen, who captained the Dutch giants, and won two league titles and one Dutch Cup during his time at Amsterdam before moving to North London, has now spoken about his time as a young player coming through the ranks at Ajax.

Speaking to the Guardian, the 31-year-old reminisced about the time he decided to move to Amsterdam when he was 16 years of age. “I had doubts about going to Ajax because I don’t like moving,” he said. “I remember my old [Beerschot] coach told me: ‘Jan, just go. If it doesn’t work out, you can always come back here.’ I always remember these words. It’s Ajax. It’s the best academy in the world.”

The Belgian, who has been one of Tottenham’s most consistent performers in recent seasons, talked about how Ajax players coming through the academy are expected to be fearless and dominate the opposition.

He said, “When you start at Ajax and you’re six or seven years old, you’re in the best team in the league – always.

“And you have to dominate, at home and away from home. A draw is never enough. A win is never enough. You have to win in a certain way and that’s what we are seeing with Ajax right now.”

“They just prepare everyone for the highest level and when the kids come on – and they almost are kids when they are making their debuts at 17, 18, 19 – they are ready, hungry and fearless.

“They feel the support from the academy and they’ve got confidence in their qualities. Ajax is playing at an unbelievable level. You only expect teams from the big countries to do this but Ajax have shown the way to do it. They are always a step ahead of everyone else.”

Vertonghen admitted that the prospect of facing his former side looked bleak when the quarterfinal draw was announced but said he is thrilled about the opportunity.

He added, “When we saw the draw – Ajax v Juventus, Tottenham v Manchester City in the quarters – maybe you didn’t expect us to play against each other but it’s on. It will be extremely special.”

Spurs Web’s take

While it will certainly be an emotional moment for the four Spurs players who have fond memories of playing at Ajax, they will surely want to prove to their former employers how far they have come as players. So, it could provide them with an extra bit of motivation to perform in the tie.

The likes of Vertonghen and Alderweireld clearly also have an insight into the mindsets of the young Ajax players, which will hopefully help them on the pitch.

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