Why Manchester United should go all out for Toby Alderweireld

Tottenham Hotspur defender, Toby Alderweireld, is reportedly nearing a £75m switch to Manchester United. The Belgian, who currently has only one year left with Spurs, is perceived as the final screw to tighten Jose Mourinho’s backline nuts.

All things being equal, Alderweireld will become a Red Devil before the end of the transfer window. Spurs appear resolved to allow the ex-Atletico Madrid rearguard depart. However, not on the cheap as United seem reluctant to meet his valuation. Paris Saint-Germain is interested too.

Tottenham, though, has an option to extend the contract by a further 12 months but by doing so will activate a £25m release clause during the final two weeks of the 2019 summer transfer window. Alderweireld, himself, is even willing to run down his contract and snub advances from other clubs to join Mourinho’s side, even if it fails to materialise this summer. United shouldn’t hesitate.

Alderweireld has been imperious since joining from Madrid in 2015. He has been an integral part of Mauricio Pochettino’s defence. Appearing in every single match in his first season, Alderweireld started 30 times the following campaign.

Those two years coincided with a significant defensive improvement at the club. Spurs boasted the best defensive record in the league both seasons, conceding just 35 then 26 goals. In the season before Alderweireld’s arrival, they flaunted the division’s fifth-worst defensive record, shipping 53 goals.

Alderweireld struggled to stay fit last season. He managed just three Premier League starts. In his absence, Mauricio Pochettino lost some doggedness and intimidation at the back. The North Londoners relinquished their defensive crown to the Manchester sides.

Jose Mourinho’s obsession with the 29-year-old is understandable. Alderweireld is the prototypical modern central defender, calm and comfortable with or without the ball. His passing accuracy was 86% last term – by average the most by any outfield player. That figure surged to 90 in Russia.

Alderweild doesn’t just pass for possession’s sake. He reads the game skilfully. Proven rearguards of the Belgian’s quality are rare. The few available rightfully command inflated prices in the market. Virgil van Dijk set the new standard in January with his £75 million moves from Southampton to Liverpool.

Mourinho is eyeing expansive attractive football. The club’s lack of ball-playing defenders is a bane. United do currently have five – Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof – whose first position is centre-half, and another two who can play there in Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe.

Bailly really has looked the real deal, a centre-half with virtually all of the attributes – and especially those physically assured ones that Mourinho idealises – but the fitness issues of last season have caused the manager to lose some faith in how often he can use the Ivorian. Lindelof has meanwhile offered some spark, but there is still doubt over whether he is truly a Mourinho defender, and instead just represents a potential investment for the future.

The manager has never been all that bothered with investments for the future, however, and generally wants players who can do it for him now. Alderweireld would be this player.


Written by Toby Prince

Follow Toby on Twitter @prinzToby

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