COMMENT By Richard Parks
Toby Alderweireld will be recalled to the Tottenham squad for Tuesday’s clash against Brighton but it only proves to show how far down the pecking order he has slipped.
Mauricio Pochettino made it clear at his media briefing on Monday, as quoted by Football London correspondent Alasdair Gold, that the frozen-out Belgian is to be recalled to the Premier League squad for the first time since October.
But the significant caveat is that Alderweireld will form part of the second string, alongside the likes of Lucas Moura and Fernando Llorente, as Pochettino gives breathers to the main men ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final showdown against Manchester United.
Poch just told me he will rotate players for tomorrow night’s game. Lucas Moura is pushing for a start and Llorente is back now in contention after his problem the other day. Poch didn’t want to go into it as it was a private matter. Toby Alderweireld will be in the squad he said
— Alasdair Gold (@AlasdairGold) April 16, 2018
With Spurs well on course for a top-four finish, the manager’s priority is ending the club’s decade-long wait for silverware.
A recall to the 18-man squad only serves to prove that the writing is now etched indelibly on the wall for Alderweireld’s Tottenham career.
The composition of the Spurs matchday 18 for Saturday night’s 3-1 Premier League defeat to Manchester City made it clear that there is no way back for the centre-back following his contract stalemate with the club.
Pochettino’s previous logic when it came to not bringing Alderweireld into his matchday squads was because he was happy with the balance on his bench.
There was always the suspicion that Poch was telling porkies to hide the fallout of the contract row and that has now been substantiated.
With Danny Rose injured for the Wembley clash against Pep Guardiola’s side, that should have opened up a spot for another defender among the substitutes.
It didn’t, and even when Llorente suddenly had to withdraw from the squad for personal reasons after arriving at the stadium, 19-year-old striker Kazaiah Sterling suddenly found himself thrust on to the bench, just 24 hours after playing almost 90 minutes for the Under-23s at Chelsea.
Once again, Alderweireld – fit enough to play the full 90 minutes for Belgium during the recent international break – was nowhere to be seen.
Pochettino has always claimed the 6ft 2in centre-back, brilliant since joining from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2015, will play again for Tottenham before the season comes to its conclusion.
That might or might not happen – he could be an unused substitute at Brighton – but Alderweireld should start planning for where he will play his football next season.
He is clearly not in Pochettino’s plans for the major games as a result of rejecting a contract offer from the club that did not meet his expectations.
His selection on Tuesday night for a weakened team further reinforces what a depressingly sad end to his Spurs career this is.
Alderweireld’s time at Tottenham appears to be done.
In other Tottenham news, ‘I am so sorry’ – Pochettino offers heartfelt apology to senior Tottenham player after bust-up.