Alderweireld was part of Pochettino’s latest exodus of Tottenham players over the summer, joining Qatari club Al-Duhail after six years, 236 appearances, two title challenges, two FA Cup semi-finals, one League Cup final, a Champions League final and no trophies in North London.
“No, no, I don’t think the club can regret anything. I think they did wonders, ”says Alderweireld in an interview with Sport standard.
“You don’t know everything that goes on in a club. It is not Football Manager. I know for sure that [chairman Daniel] Levy gave 100 percent for the club. It’s good that they’re not happy with where they are now. The structure is there to be one of the biggest clubs in the world. Maybe they need more time. I know in football there is no time but I don’t think the club should have done anything else.
“How many times do you see clubs investing too much and then they are in trouble? Spurs know what it’s like to be healthy.
“Of course it will always say ‘no silverware’ and I understand that. But it’s a wonderful time in Spurs history. I think the fans will like to think about it.
Alderweireld clearly likes to reflect on his six years with Spurs, especially the four and a half seasons with Pochettino’s well-established and hard-working squad.
The Belgian raves about his fondest memory, the Champions League semi-final in his former club Ajax. Like all Spurs fans, he watched the footage over and over again, devouring every new angle of Lucas Moura’s hat-trick in the second half.
“We finished: 2-0 [down], in total 3-0, ”said Alderweireld. “If you think about it, where do we get our hope from here? But Pochettino said we have to change, we are going all or nothing. When I think about it now, it’s like, ‘3-0… impossible!’ But for some reason, we were like, “Yeah, let’s go! It was very special. I think one of the best games in football history.
Six months later, in November 2019, Pochettino was unemployed, sacked by Spurs and replaced overnight by Jose Mourinho.
Alderweireld, who was on international duty at the time, said the news was a ‘big shock’ but looking back he feels the curtain has really fallen on Pochettino’s reign with the loss to Liverpool in the Champions League final.
” That would have been the trophy for our golden generation. With the money we spent – next to nothing – and the way we played it would have been an incredible achievement, especially if you had seen the teams we beat, ”said the 32-year-old, who has also lost the 2014 final with Atletico Madrid. .
“Then the tank was empty. After a few seasons, it was one too many. When I look back now, we needed a bigger break to really want to go back. The disappointment was too fresh.
“It was the same for everyone, even Poch. A manager’s career is different, but the opportunity for the Champions League final is [rare].
“I know for sure that he loves Spurs even to this day and to achieve that with the club at the time maybe would have been the biggest achievement in Spurs history. So it makes sense. He needed time to cool off and want to go back.
After Pochettino’s departure, Spurs entered a downward spiral that shows no signs of slowing down, but the club are finally moving forward with the “painful rebuild” the Argentine has long demanded. Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen both left less than a year after the manager, while Alderweireld was one of seven established players allowed to leave the club this summer.
A hallmark of Spurs’ struggles over the past two seasons has been a lack of unity, with supporters turning on managers, players and the board, and a fractured dressing room. This is all so different from the brotherly gang spirit fostered by Pochettino and his team, who managed to unite the club from the boardroom to the terraces.
“The team was so close. You are approaching it because the Pochettino route is not the easy route, ”says Alderweireld. “You work so hard every day. Days off are very, very rare.
“You really get the same as the military. You get angry but you train, you improve. Train, train! You do it and it creates a group, like “Let’s do it together”. So that was the feeling, especially during the seasons with Leicester, Chelsea, the Champions League.
“Then some players go and some players come and it has to be done again. Sometimes you need chemistry that works. I’m not saying it didn’t work, but we have to be honest. The group we had then was a very special friendship group.
Another issue was the decision to allow Amazon Prime cameras in the club for the 2019-20 season, a decision Pochettino was deeply uncomfortable with.
“Some things should have stayed in the locker room,” says Alderweireld. “Because not only in football, in every work environment, there are things happening that are only meant to stay there. After a while you didn’t think about it anymore, but that didn’t make it any easier.
Alderweireld was a regular at Pochettino, but there were often suggestions that they didn’t always agree. The defender was also believed to be among the players Pochettino was most willing to offload when he initially called for a rebuild in the summer of 2018.
“Poch is smarter than I am,” said Alderweireld, who insists he never thought of leaving Spurs that summer. “He saw things that I didn’t see. I thought we had a really good team.
“Our relationship is very positive. I’m still very grateful that he bought me from Spurs. This is the guy who texted me and called me to come over, this is the guy who got the most out of me, 100% for sure. I was the fittest under him.
“Of course in football if you work four or five days together and you’re a big personality – because I have my opinion on football too – you have discussions. And it’s good.
“But I never had a problem with him. Never again. I’m grateful because he took me up two or three levels.
But didn’t he finally sign a new contract in December 2019, a month after Pochettino was replaced by Mourinho?
“It had nothing to do with the director. It looked like that, but it wasn’t, ”says Alderweireld, who explains that the club only offered him what they saw as a fair deal when he entered the last year of his contract.
The center-half’s relationship with Mourinho was more complicated and included a notable flashpoint in April, when the Portuguese claimed he had not selected Alderweireld in the squad for a trip to Newcastle because he was late return from international service. In fact, Alderweireld had trained for three days before the game.
“We talked about it. He said to me: ‘Sorry, I wasn’t talking about you’. And that was good, ”says Alderweireld.
“Still, I think he’s one of the best, a proven manager. He arrived at a difficult time in Spurs history changing stadium and after the Champions League final the expectations were so high. But I learned some things from him, even though I’m 30, 31, which I still use today in my game. Maybe it wasn’t what we both expected, but I don’t want to blame him.
Alderweireld speaks on Zoom from his apartment in Qatar which he shares with his wife and two young children, who can sometimes be heard in the background.
He insists he was not sent off by Spurs but decided to escape the relentless rush of European football.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s money,” he said. “But I want to see my family a lot more. [Today in football] there are more games, more tournaments. Following! I’m at 116 [Belgium] caps. This means that I not only play games, but travel.
“For 13 years, I have been part of the national team, the Europa League, the Champions League, the Premier League. It’s always more, more [time] Far from home.
“My daughter is three years old. My son is one and a half years old. They miss me a lot. And I miss a lot of things. They grow up, they do their first things. I am never there. It was a big part for me. Maybe I would enjoy my football more because I would be more at home. I always had the feeling that I was not there. How many Christmases have I missed? How many new years?
“So I thought if I want to enjoy my football and keep enjoying it, I have to be more at home.
“I played two World Cups, two euros. There is another World Cup to come. When do you say “enough”? i have goals [in football] and in the meantime I can take my kids to school and see them a lot more than in England.
“The spurs never pushed me [out]”, Adds Alderweireld, who has signed a two-year contract with Al-Duhail, and wants to compete in the World Cup in Qatar next winter.
“I think I’m not lying when I say they respect what I’ve done for the club. I gave my best years for the club, achieved a lot of great things together.
“And I have a lot of respect for Spurs. They said if you want to go, we get it. You’ve done your best for Spurs and we’ll work with it if that’s what you want.