Vertonghen: How former Spurs boss played a central role in my career
Jan Vertonghen has revealed that former Tottenham manager Martin Jol played a central role in his development by moving him into the heart of the defence.
The adaptable Vertonghen is best known as a centre-back but operates as a left-back for the Belgium national team, and is also comfortable in midfield.
Spurs’ new signing admits that his versatility caused him problems earlier in his career – but that Jol put him on the right track during his year in charge of Ajax in 2009-10.
“I used to play in midfield for quite a long time, and even in the first team at Ajax,” said Vertonghen. “They didn’t know what I was exactly, but when Martin Jol came he told me that I’m a central defender, and it was the time for me to develop my body and my way of playing to be a central defender - and that really helped me to make a choice about my position.
“He [Jol] had a great time here [at Spurs] but he didn’t tell me that much about Tottenham – I think he was little bit afraid that I would leave his team! But he was always very positive about the Premier League and Tottenham, and I’m glad to be here now.
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“I think really I’m a central defender. I play left-back in the Belgium team because they already have some great central defenders there - you all know them.
“I can play there, and in the Belgium team I’m happy that I can play in the team because they have a lot of quality players, but my ambition here is to play in central defence - and I think that’s where they want me to play.”
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As a big fan of the Premier League, Vertonghen was thrilled to complete his protracted move to Spurs – and he is now intent on getting up to speed with English football.
“The Premier League was the only competition that I was really following on the TV, and I think for every football player the dream is to play in the Premier League, because football was born here,” he said.
“I went to the last game of the season - Tottenham against Fulham - and I tasted the ambience and the atmosphere, and it was amazing.
“The level of the Premier League is different from the Dutch league, and the tempo and the level is higher.
“I hope I can adapt - that’s one of the reasons why it was very important for me to start preparations now, to adapt to the level and the tempo.
“It’s a little bit higher than in Amsterdam, but I’ll have five or six weeks to adapt and then I want to be ready to start quickly.”
Vertonghen may only have been at Spurs for a couple of days, but he says the playing style – and the coaching style of Andre Villas-Boas – is very familiar.
“The way the team play football, that’s one of the reasons I came here,” he said. “I really want to play good football, and it’s similar to the way that Ajax wanted to play.
“I saw them [Tottenham] playing in the Champions League - it was just amazing. They have real quality players here, and that’s what Rafael van der Vaart told me too.
“Villas-Boas? I’m very impressed by him. He’s really involved on the pitch, and in his coaching.
“I like that kind of training, because Frank de Boer was quite similar. He was always with the players - he was talking, he was coaching and that’s what I like.
“He [Villas-Boas] keeps the team busy. He’s running around and when we play games he’s on the field between the players. I like those kind of trainers.
“I’ve been here for a few days and I think we have a quality team, so we want to aim as high as possible. Last year Tottenham were in the race for the championship for a long way, so we have to try to do that again – and maybe a little bit longer.”
Vertonghen, who was speaking at the launch of Spurs’ new kit, added: “It’s really important to play in a nice shirt. I know the Tottenham kit from before and it feels amazing to play in the kit right now. Everybody knows the white shirt and it’s like a dream come true for me.”
Under Armour is the Official Technical Partner of Tottenham Hotspur FC. Under Armour is a leading performance apparel, footwear and accessories brand. For details of the new kit go to www.tottenhamhotspur.com
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs