Jose Mourinho might well rue Daniel Levy’s blunderous decision to allow Jan Vertonghen to quit Tottenham Hotspur this summer after the Belgian upstaged Toby Alderweireld in his country’s victory over England in the UEFA Nations League.
Vertonghen departed north London after the expiration of his £100,000-per-week Tottenham contract this summer, ending an eight-year stint with the club before joining Liga NOS giants SL Benfica as a free agent.
He was signed by Andre Villas-Boas early into the former Chelsea coach’s tenure as Spurs boss and he went on to accumulate 315 career games under the tutelage of Villas-Boas, Tim Sherwood, Mauricio Pochettino and lastly Mourinho.
Mourinho had nothing but praise for the 33-year-old after he played his final game in the Premier League, saying Jorge Jesus was acquiring a terrific centre-half who helped Spurs to the 2018/19 Champions League Final.
“He will be a great man to play in the Portuguese League. A big professional, a silent leader, an example in a workgroup. Fortunately, I’ve met many throughout my career but Jan is certainly among the best,” Mourinho told Record, via quotes by Sport Witness.
“As a player, everyone knows him and the Benfica coach, as well as his structure, certainly analysed everything he can bring to the team. I wish him to be very happy in my country. At Spurs, we’ll all be behind a person who is very dear to us.”
Mourinho’s admiration for Vertonghen was matched only by the defender’s admiration for Tottenham, the coaching staff and supporters, having posted an emotional farewell message on Twitter when confirming his exit in July.
“So, my time at the club comes to an end. A sad day for many reasons. I will miss the friends I’ve made here, the staff that make the club run, playing at the amazing new stadium & of course you fans.
“Thank you for all the support over the years. You’ve been amazing. We had many unbelievable memories but for now, it’s goodbye.”
Mourinho may well be wishing he never parted ways with Vertonghen, after witnessing the 6 ft 2 enforcer upstage Alderweireld against England as Belgium won their UEFA Nations League meeting 2-0.
Like Vertonghen, Alderweireld was set to be out of contract this summer but penned a new £110k-p/w deal last December to commit his future to Spurs through to 2023, yet, he has found his place in the starting line-up far from secure this season.
Mourinho has called on the former Southampton star to start just five Premier League fixtures and one of the north London side’s Europa League Group Stage ties, with Eric Dier enjoying the most top-flight minutes (630) at centre-half under the Portuguese to date.
Davison Sanchez, despite playing 90 fewer minutes than Alderweireld, also has more successful tackles (9) to his name than the Belgian (7) in league games, who ranks last among the trio for interceptions (1), aerial duels won (10) and second for clearances (22) as well, per WhoScored.
Alderweireld had the chance to show Mourinho was not wrong when allowing Vertonghen to leave and retain his services against England, but he failed to impress as the Benfica man stepped up to keep the Three Lions at bay and the Red Devils top of Group A2.
Vertonghen and Alderweireld both registered two clearances, one blocked shot and one interception at home to the Three Lions, but it was the former Spurs star who recorded more touches (89 to 60), more accurate passes (60 to 42), completed more dribbles (1 to 0), won more ground duels (3 to 2) and aerial duels (1 to 0), per SofaScore.
Alderweireld also committed three fouls, whereas Vertonghen kept his powder dry on route to a 100% duel success rate that Mourinho would surely love to have from his players this season.
Jesus has called on Vertonghen to start all six of his Liga NOS appearances to date, in which he’s helped to keep three clean sheets with 6.0 duels won, 2.2 clearances and he has been dribbled past just 0.2 times a game.