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Jan Vertonghen: A tribute

The Spurs defender became Belgium's most capped player ever against Cyprus last night with his 97th appearance for his country.


Elegant, composed and reliable, does the left footed centre back get enough credit?

Jan Vertonghen joined Tottenham Hotspur back in 2012 from Ajax having established himself as one of the most promising defenders in Europe. The cultured defender had a phenomenal first season at Spurs, and was named in the PFA Team of the Year, scoring seven goals in all competitions from defence.

Vertonghen showcased why he was so highly regarded at Ajax, and how he was a typical ‘Ajax’ player.

His ability to keep composed and play the ball out from the back immediately adorned him to the White Hart Lane faithful.

Vertonghen’s composure on the ball was more akin to a deep lying playmaker, and his finishing reminiscent of a top class striker.

Not only that, ‘Super Jan’ defended with class and composure as well.

His superb reading of the game meant he rarely needed to get his shorts muddy, and often cut out the danger before it even arose.

Vertonghen’s intelligence and flexibility also meant he could fill in at left back, where he also performed to a high level.

Pochettino’s perfect player

His second season at Spurs wasn’t quite as successful as his first, with the club struggling as a whole, with two different manager sackings in the same season.

However, when Mauricio Pochettino was appointed as manager of Tottenham Hotspur, Jan was quickly back to his best.

The signing of Belgian team mate Toby Alderweireld just over two years ago has only seen Vertonghen go up another level. He formed an instant bond with his fellow countryman, with the pair a major reason as to why Spurs have had the best defensive record in the Premier League for the past two seasons. Not only that, Vertonghen’s ability on the ball has made Spurs’ transitions from four to three at the back seamless, with Vertonghen ideally suited to play as the wide left centre back.

Last season was arguably his best yet in a Spurs shirt. He was imperious in defence, and glorious carrying the ball out from the back, dragging the ball past opponents and passing through the lines. And yet, perhaps due to his partner Alderweireld’s brilliance, Vertonghen’s performances often go unnoticed.

He was arguably the best defender in the league last season, however was never mooted to be in the reckoning for the PFA Team of the Year.

Vertonghen has started this season in similar fashion. The Belgian record breaker has been in great form this campaign, however has only had to make an average of 1.7 tackles per game, showing how good he is at preventing danger before it even arises. He also dribbles on average 1.3 times per game, and is only dispossessed on average 0.3 times per game, a brilliant score considering he is a centre back who doesn’t boast that much speed.

He also makes an average of 80 passes per game for Spurs, showing how often he is relied upon to start attacks.

The modern day defender at top clubs must be comfortable on the ball, and flexible enough to transition between different tactical set ups.

Vertonghen is arguably the best ball playing defender in the league, and is also an extremely solid, and reliable defender who leads by example.

It is time we started recognising Vertonghen for what an exceptional player he has been, and continues to be for club and country.

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Harry Brooks

Harry graduated from UAL in Elephant and Castle with a 2:1 BA Hons degree in sports journalism.

He has an NCTJ diploma and also coaches football and teaches PE in schools.

Harry loves to talk football tactics!

Jan Vertonghen: A tribute

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