Jan Vertonghen finally completed his move to Tottenham Hotspur last Saturday. A new club, a new city, a new step in his career where he was ready for. Leaving everything behind that was so dear to him. Amsterdam formed him as the person he is nowadays. From a shy Fleming he became a mature Flemish Amsterdammer. He owes Ajax everything to the player he is at this moment. Not a little boy anymore but a real man who can carry a team.
Whilst writing this, I’m looking at this picture.
The picture of just a second after the final whistle, after finally winning the 30th league title. The way he grips the familiar red and white, the captain’s armband on his right arm, the passion and emotions on his face. That one picture tells you everything about the Ajacied Jan Vertonghen always will be. It’s bigger than big in its meaning. It’s showed Vertonghen’s passion and love for Ajax. The love for the club he’ll always carry with him where ever he may be.
The Belgian, who joined the academy at the age of 15 from Germinal Beerschot, had been a mainstay in the current Ajax side for about six seasons. Since being named as talent of the year in 2006/2007, he’s been a rising star. And since Thomas Vermaelen left to Arsenal in the summer of 2009, Vertonghen became one of Ajax’s key players. He took over the role of his Belgian friend in the center of the defence with ease. He played in different positions before that: left back, left midfielder, holding midfielder and also centre back. He was and still is a utility man capable of playing in any role between midfield and defence.
His versatility is one of the reasons that he’s an excellent player. He feels comfortable in different positions and can play his own game in all of them. With no fear to stick in with tackles, showing the warrior in him, he was the best defender on the Dutch pitches last season. He’s hard to beat for any player with his strength, technique and will to fight.
His trademarks are his technically perfect crosses and his deep runs. Being technically gifted is a trademark of almost every defender that comes through the ranks of the academy. Vertonghen is a great example of that with his ability to play perfect crosses to the left- or right winger. His other trademark, the deep runs, is my favorite. It shows his technique and drive. They’ve been described as "Beckenbauerish", which pretty much says in my eyes how much technique he has in his feet. He can easily run past two or three players and also pick out the right pass.
He feels comfortable in different positions and can play his own game in all of them.
Have I summed up all his pluses? No, there’s one left: his dead-ball ability. He can smash in balls from anywhere outside the box. A big bonus in the game nowadays. Cliché or not, his left foot is a hammer. He’s also capable of heading in balls after a corner or free kick besides scoring free kicks.
In his last two seasons at Ajax he turned from a boy into a man. From time to time he can be a little arrogant on the pitch which leads to minor or major mistakes. Frank de Boer and his technical staff kept harping this had to be removed from his game before he was really ready to make the step abroad. It took some time but after the winter break he saw the light for what’s needed to play in the biggest leagues in the world.
Jan Vertonghen has become one of my favorite players in football nowadays. Not in the last place because of the passion, maturity and love he showed for Ajax. When things go the right way, his smile is bigger than everyone else’s. When things don’t go the right way, no one would look with more anger than Jan Vertonghen. He is a very likeable person who’s always in for some good banter. He’s not like many other footballers. When having some time off he enjoyes theatre and other culture stuff. He’s intelligent and still studying to graduate as a sports marketeer.
Jan Vertonghen outgrowed Ajax and the Eredivisie. Some birds are simply too beautiful to be caged, they have to spread their wings. Jan Vertonghen is that kind of bird.
The fans of Tottenham Hotspur have a great football player under their wings. I’m sure he’ll continue to develop like he did the past two seasons at Ajax. He might need time to settle in the Premier League but that’s not a new sound to the ears of English football fans. He’ll find his way through it. He’s Jan Vertonghen.
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