After being part of Atletico Madrid’s implosion in the 2014 Champions League final against arch-rivals Real Madrid, Toby Alderweireld needed to rebuild some confidence.
He found it in Brazil, when he started all five games for Belgium’s quarter-final World Cup squad. From there, he agreed a loan move to Premier League side Southampton, who had a £6.8million option to buy the centre-back at the end of the 2014-15 season.
The Belgian impressed Ronald Koeman and Southampton were keen to make the move permanent, but that’s where things get interesting. Atletico Madrid exercised a £1.5million option to cancel the permanent transfer and sell to whomever they wanted. The Premier League club threatened legal action if they were unable to sign Alderweireld as they believed Atletico had not activated their option in time.
In the end, the Spanish champions sold the Belgian to Tottenham for £11.5m and the Saints didn’t take any legal action against Atletico.
WATCH THE LATEST 442OONS VIDEO BELOW…
Fifth-placed Spurs were looking to propel themselves into the top-four and needed to find a better partner for Jan Vertonghen than Vlad Chiriches, Younes Kaboul or Federico Fazio, and it turned out that nobody was better for that role than international teammate Alderweireld.
The Belgian pair were key parts of the Premier League’s stingiest defence as Spurs challenged for the Premier League title but came up short of Leicester’s fairy-tale.
Alderweireld played every minute of Spurs’ campaign and was heralded as one of the best players in the Premier League season, being named in the PFA Team of the Year and as Tottenham’s Player of the Year.
He was again a key part of the Tottenham team last season and helped the club to a second place finish. The move to Spurs has clearly worked out well for both Alderweireld and the club, who would likely fetch at least three times what they paid if they sold the Belgian.
But interestingly enough, Southampton still benefitted from the move. After missing out on Alderweireld, the club turned its attention to a rising star from Celtic and purchased him for £13m.
Virgil Van Dijk is now rumoured to be worth over £60m and has been chased by clubs like Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea. The Dutchman turns just 26 this month and has quickly made Saints fans forget about the controversy surrounding Toby Alderweireld.
It would be interesting to see what the league would look like if Southampton had been able to sign the Belgian in the first place.
Would Spurs have found an equally great defender? Would Southampton be a defensive force? Where would Van Dijk be?
No one will ever know, but what we do know is that Alderweireld’s arrival at Tottenham is a transfer that changed today’s Premier League landscape.