A very humble Jan Vertonghen revealed he never even foresaw himself winning one cap for Belgium when he was a boy, let alone going on to break the all-time appearance record for his country.
If selected against Cyprus tonight, our long-serving centre-back will overtake former striker Jan Ceulemans’ tally of 96 caps for the Red Devils, a record that has stood for a grand total of 26 years.
Jan had in fact a disappointing start to his career. He had just come to the end of a loan spell at RKC Waalwijk, who were relegated from the Eredivisie, when, aged 20, he was thrown into Belgium’s starting line-up for his first senior appearance for his country in a European Championship qualifier against Portugal in Brussels in June, 2007.
He’s remained a regular figure in the squad ever since while playing for Ajax and Spurs at club level and is now poised to make history when Belgium, who have already qualified for next summer’s World Cup finals in Russia, host Cyprus.
“I’m very proud,” he said to tottenhamhotspur.com
“I’ve always been watching the national team since I was very young and I wouldn’t have dreamed of playing for them. I never imagined it. I liked playing football but I never thought I was going to be as good as I have to be to play for the national team.
“Eventually I was and now, to have played so many games, to have played at tournaments with the national team and to hopefully break the record, it’s one of the proudest moments o
Speaking about his debut against Portugal back in 2007, Jan told the club website : “I didn’t expect to play – I didn’t expect a call-up!
“I was playing for a small team at the time and I was very, very surprised to be there. The day before the game I remember I was doing the set-pieces with the starting XI and I was even more surprised!
“Portugal were a very good team at the time and I remember I played against Deco and Tiago – they were my two opponents. It was a tough game but I think I did well.”
The article goes on to say that Jan credits his winning goal for the Belgian Red Devil’s against South Korea in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as his favourite moment in a Belgium shirt.
According to the piece Jan was actually introduced to current record-holder Ceulemans in London recently.
“I wasn’t even born for much of his career,” exclaimed Jan. “I saw some footage of him and when I met him, it was a special moment. He’s a very nice guy. I think he always knew the record was going to be taken some day and I think he’s happy that it’s me.”
A fantastic moment for Jan, he’s been a loyal servant to the Red Devil’s but has been vital to our cause, an unsung hero perhaps. He is an exemplary professional, even Toby joked he couldn’t play without him. Congratulations Jan, you deserve it and there are navy caps in you yet.
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