By Richard Parks
Mauricio Pochettino has offered a heartfelt apology to Toby Alderweireld for freezing him out of the Tottenham side.
Alderweireld, 29, has not played a Premier League game since October after spending months out with a hamstring injury, despite declaring in January that he was “fit and ready” to play.
The Belgium international has been omitted from the Spurs matchday 18 for their last two Premier League matches – wins over Stoke City on Saturday and Chelsea six days earlier – after proving his fitness by playing a full match for his country during the recent international break.
Pochettino has denied that Alderweireld’s omission is related to his contract stalemate with the club and has insisted that Davinson Sanchez and Jan Vertonghen deserve to be selected ahead of the former Atletico Madrid man.
“I am so sorry because Toby was an important player for us in the last two seasons,” Pochettino said, as quoted by the Sky Sports website. “Then he got the injury and players like Davinson and (Jan) Vertonghen stepped up, and you have got to deserve to play.
“If we are happy with the players who are playing, you need to wait. That does not mean he is not going to play again. But now he needs to keep pushing and try to show me he can play better than the others.
“I don’t care about the personal situations with the club. If they show me they deserve to play, they are going to play. It is not about personal feelings or emotions. It is about providing the team with the best tools to win.”
Football Insider verdict:
Pochettino’s denials over Alderweireld don’t quite stack up. While the manager can offer a semi-persuasive case as to why the Belgian is not in the starting XI – Sanchez has been playing solidly and the team are winning – it is more than an oddity that Alderweireld does not make the matchday 18. There was no centre-back on the bench against Chelsea, and it was the same against Stoke, although the versatile Eric Dier can play in the position very well. If Alderweireld had not been frozen out, then he would at least be on the bench. You’re a great manager, Poch. But pull the other one about Toby. We’re not buying it.
In other Tottenham news, the club are working on a deal to sign a 29-year-old left footer who would be a sensational signing.