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Toby Alderweireld departs

Farewell to a favourite

The official announcement yesterday of Toby Alderweireld's departure came as no surprise, as his move to Al-Duhail SC in Qatar had previously been accurately forecast in the press and social media. This transfer was nonetheless very sad as Toby had been a very skilful and solid centre-back in his 6 years at Spurs, five of which were spent in partnership with his Belgian International team-mate and fellow favourite Jan Vertonghen. That partnership, forged over so many games together, had been one of the very best for Tottenham in many years. Both players were adored by the fans, and both had songs dedicated to them. Both returned the love in full and bid heartfelt fond farewells to the fans and the club.

Like Jan Vertonghen, Toby started his career with Ajax Amsterdam. Toby's route to Tottenham was less direct than that of "Super Jan". Alderweireld first went to Atletico Madrid and spent a season on loan with Southampton before signing for Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs in 2015. He made his Spurs debut at Old Trafford in our first game of that season, which we lost due to an own goal by Kyle Walker. In my match report, I wrote:- "Toby Alderweireld had a good game at the back, I felt, and also showed a tendency to spray good passes." Those long (and usually accurate) passes from the back became both a trademark of Toby's game, and a great benefit to his team.

With a superb defensive record of 26 goals conceded in the Premier League in 2016/17, Toby and Jan helped us to reach second place for the first time since 1962-3, and of course they were a vital part of the team that qualified for the Champions League in four consecutive seasons. Toby was ever-present for Spurs in his first league season, and made 174 league appearances all but two of which were in the starting line-up. he also scored 8 league goals and I remember that four of those came in his first season in top games (three wins and one draw) against Manchester City, West Ham, Arsenal and Manchester United. That Arsenal drawn game was the one featuring arguably Harry Kane's best Spurs goal - mask and all!

Toby made 62 other appearances for Spurs including 42 in European games. His penultimate Spurs goal was the winner against Arsenal in July last year. Toby was (and remains) a stylish defender and in his first four seasons he was shown only 10 yellow cards. I remember comparing his excellent disciplinary record with that of Ledley King. Unlike Vertonghen (still going strong at Benfica and for his country) Toby was rewarded with a new contract after the arrival of Jose Mourinho. Significantly in the season when Mourinho was featured on Amazon's "All or Nothing" documentary, and the manager basically told his players they had to learn how to be nasty (of course I am watering this down), Toby was booked 7 times - more than in any season of his 16-year career.

Under Mourinho, Toby was often shackled and we saw less of his forward movement and passing, but those shackles were released in Ryan Mason's short period of care at the end of last season. Such tendencies have often been seen when playing for Belgium and Toby has 113 senior caps to date. Toby was born in Antwerp and hoped to play in his home City wheh we travelled there in last year's Europa League. He had to settle for a place on the bench.

There had been suggestions that Toby might go back to Antwerp to finish his playing career. However, he has chosen a move to Qatar, where I have no doubt he will be hamdsomely paid and will have a chance to research that territory for Belgium's 2022 World Cup campaign. You can find free bets for Spurs fans regarding that and other sporting events here and around the world.

Toby was Spurs Odyssey's player of the season in his debut season, and a favourite throuhghout his time here. All Spurs fans will wish him well in his future career.

1. Paratici arrives and departing players listed
2. Nuno says, "We are going to make you proud!"
3. Latest arrivals at Tottenham Hotspur

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