Toby Alderweireld: Dutch Expert On Liverpool's Latest Defensive Target...
Toby Alderweireld is expected to leave Ajax before the end of the transfer window. With only one year left at his contract and unwilling to renew it, it’s most likely that Ajax are willing to sell him this summer despite being an important part of the team. The 24-year-old defender has been heavily linked to Premier League clubs.
Belgian footballers are hot and happening at the moment particulary in the Premier League. The likes of Vincent Kompany, Mousa Dembele, Marouane Fellaini have been catching the eye for a few years now while Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin Mirallas and Simon Mignolet have really shown their talent this season.
Two of the highest profile Belgian internationals playing in the Premier League are Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen. The Arsenal and Spurs defenders are very similar players: both left-footed, capable of playing at left back and neither is afraid to push forward. It’s no surprise that Alderweireld has been compared to these two. He’s also a defender, though right-footed, has also been raised at Ajax and shares their nationality.
Toby Alderweireld was born in Antwerp as Tobias “Toby” Albertine Maurits Alderweireld. Young Toby started playing football as a five-year-old. Before joining the Ajax academy he played for Germinal Beerschot Antwerpen from 1999 to 2004. It was tough for the shy Belgian to get used to the hard life in Amsterdam, but he eventually settled and was rewarded by his first contract in February 2007. He was promoted to the first team for the 2008-09 season but only made his first team debut on 18 January against NEC. Although he made only a few appearances for the remainder of the season he was rewarded with a long-term contract extension until 2014.
During the early stages of the 2009-10 season, Alderweireld established himself in the starting eleven. Along side Jan Vertonghen he became first choice centre-back after the departure of Thomas Vermaelen to Arsenal. Ever since, Alderweireld hasn’t disappeared from the first team, picking up two championships under Frank de Boer in 2011 and 2012.
The 24-year-old Belgian is a strong, technically gifted defender with a great eye for a pass from the heart of the defence. He’s fast, strong both in the air and one-on-one, and very comfortable with the ball in his feet. His assist for Siem de Jong against AZ this season is a perfect display for his insight and intention to play the ball forward. The threat that he possesses at set pieces is a real boon for Ajax.
Alderweireld has his weaknesses. He has has a fondness for losing runners. It appears he’s too casual in some situations. He loses his concentration during games now and then. The Belgian is certainly a talented defender but not mentioned as the best defender in the league like Jan Vertonghen was last season. Feyenoord-defenders Stefan de Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi are both described as more talented but Alderweireld has already established himself in an on-form Ajax side and has played against the best teams among Europe in the Champions League without falling through the ice.
The fact that he is undervalued in the Netherlands is mostly due to Vertonghen, who’s without a doubt superior to his former compatriot. Alderweireld has been inconsistent at times but that has massively improved this season. He had his strongest season in an Ajax shirt and has impressed.
A move to the Premier League would be a good next step for him. He has seen how Vermaelen and Vertonghen have impressed since joining the English league. The defender will chose a club where regular playing time is guaranteed, and it looks like Arsenal could offer that in the near future. With a fee suspected to be around €9 million, he’s a bargain for sure.