A fully-fledged international.
A player of this ilk surely starts over a 20-year-old with no senior international caps to his name in a big Premier League match, right?
Well, in benching Jan Vertonghen against Liverpool, only to start academy prospect Japhet Tanganga instead, Jose Mourinho defied expectation and made a huge statement.
It’s not as if the former Chelsea and Manchester United boss allowed the 20-year-old to dip his toe in the water and ease his way in – certainly not. Naming Tanganga in the starting XI to take on European and World champions Liverpool, who boast a world-class strike force of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, spoke volumes about just how much faith Mourinho has in this young man – he threw him into the deepest end possible.
It was a statement from Mourinho, perhaps even a double statement.
In dropping a player of such pedigree in Vertonghen for Tanganga, it potentially suggested that not only does the Portuguese boss rate the youngster quite highly, but he also views the former Ajax defender as somewhat dispensable amongst his other centre-back options.
Mourinho had a choice to make. Who would he drop out of Davinson Sanchez, Toby Alderweireld or Vertonghen to accommodate Tanganga? Ultimately, as aforesaid, the latter came out of the XI, which could potentially suggest that the Tottenham boss rates Sanchez and Alderweireld higher than him.
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It remains to be seen if Mourinho only wanted to see how Tanganga did against one of the best sides around, or if this will become a more regular occurrence at Vertonghen’s expense.
To discuss the Portuguese coach’s next step would be speculative, although what isn’t speculative however, is the fact that Mourinho certainly made a statement in dropping one of his most experienced men in place of an untested youngster.
In other news, these Spurs fans have hammered this player who “making a mockery of the term ‘professional’ footballer”…