Roberto Martinez’s comments on Toby Alderweireld were more notable for what he didn’t say than what he did.
There’s been something a little suspicious about Alderweireld’s rehabilitation at Tottenham and our spider senses are itching even more after today’s news.
In a very blunt statement, Martinez – manager of Belgium – said that Alderwiereld was “completely fit”.
He went on to say, “As far as I’m concerned, he is ready to play.”
Toby Alderweireld is hoping for game-time against Saudi Arabia following his recent injury setback. "He is completely fit after a difficult rehabilitation," said #BEL boss Roberto Martinez. "As far as I’m concerned, he is ready to play." #COYS
— PhysioRoom.com (@physioroom) March 21, 2018
These are a really interesting choice of words.
There have been long-documented struggles between international and club managers down the years.
This one follows the tried-and-trusted road of an international manager saying a player is fit, and the club manager showing caution.
In this episode though there’s even more at play than just two managers at odds with each other.
Since his return from a hamstring injury, Alderweireld has made two 90-minute appearances in the FA Cup, against lower league opposition.
He didn’t seem to show any adverse effects afterwards but he was pulled from active duty by Pochettino who said he had to be cautious about putting him back in demanding games.
Every Tottenham fan will know that Alderweireld and Tottenham are at loggerheads over a new contract at the moment.
That’s complicated by the fact that if they don’t sell him this summer and he doesn’t sign a new contract, he could leave for way under market value next summer by invoking a clause.
That’s led to reports saying that he will be sold in the summer.
If that’s the case Alderweireld might not play for Tottenham again – Pochettino knows Tottenham are fine without him, and if he’s to be sold he won’t want to risk injuring him.
Pochettino doesn’t take kindly to players that go up against him or show signs of disloyalty.
Just Google Danny Rose’s name if you want to see what happened to one of Tottenham’s biggest stars after his infamous interview in the Sun. Rose is likely to leave this summer too.
Football managers, especially those as experienced as Martinez, choose their words carefully and we’d bet that “As fas as I’m concerned” has more relevance here than meets the eye.