This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Tottenham Hotspur signed Jan Vertonghen on the 12th of July 2012.
The Belgium international moved from Ajax and, while the fee was not disclosed at the time, BBC Sport reported that the Dutch club had demanded £12m.
Let that sink in for a second.
Vertonghen cost Spurs less than £15m. This was a prime example of Spurs snapping up an undervalued defender and turning him, essentially, into a star.
He has been an impeccable servant to the club and has made a total of 286 appearances in north London. He has scored 12 goals and registered six assists.
At no point has he ever been anything short of genuinely exceptional.
Signed in a disappointing era for the club – Andre Villas-Boas was manager when he arrived – he was a beacon of consistency under the Portuguese, survived the poisonous toxicity of Tim Sherwood’s era and is now perhaps Mauricio Pochettino’s most important defender.
That he plays alongside Toby Alderweireld and remains the club’s best central defender is a testament to his performances.
In the 2018/19 season, he made a total of 22 Premier League appearances – his game time is carefully managed, particularly with Davinson Sanchez now an excellent option – and his statistics are superb.
Per WhoScored, he averages 1.8 tackles per game, 1.5 interceptions and a mere 0.5 fouls. He makes 3.3 clearances and averages a pass completion rate of 87.5%.
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Alderweireld averages fewer tackles (1.1 to 1.8) and fewer interceptions (0.7 to 1.5). Sanchez also makes fewer tackles, interceptions and more fouls. Both Alderweireld and Sanchez average more clearances but Vertonghen is the frontline defender, the player who steps out to mop up.
His current contract expires at the end of next season and Spurs have to do everything they can to ensure he sticks around.
The club have not signed such a consistent player at any other point in this decade and Vertonghen remains one of the first names on the teamsheet in the big games – they simply must protect his future.
If Spurs are to lose him, they won’t be able to replace him and, while he turns 33 next year, he has to remain a cornerstone of Pochettino’s project in north London.