Tottenham are facing uncertain times right now. A lot of players find their futures up in the air and there seems to be the time for a big rebuild under Jose Mourinho. From Harry Kane and Harry Winks to Juan Foyth, nothing seems to be sure. At the centre of that is Jan Vertonghen and that is one player Spurs need to move on.
Vertonghen’s contributions to the club can’t be underestimated. Since joining from Ajax back in 2011, the Belgian has grown in stature and he has been one of the best centre-backs in the previous decade for many. But this season has been the poorest for him at Spurs and with declining age and performance, a move to Inter will make sense.
It is also fair to blame Spurs’ lack of midfield structure for Vertonghen’s struggles. Mourinho’s usage of him in a three-man defence has exposed him to pacy attackers, leaving him to struggle in those positions. As a result, Vertonghen has been dribbled past 0.6 times per 90 minutes– the highest in his career.
It does show that Vertonghen has lost the pace and playing against quicker forwards will expose him. Inter themselves play a 3-5-2 under Antonio Conte, but in a different league and a different system, things can still turn around for the Belgian legend.
Milan Skriniar has been Inter’s regular left centre-back, apart from the young Alessandro Bastoni. Stefan de Vrij has had an impressive season at the centre of the back-three, with Diego Godin or Skriniar playing at right centre-back. De Vrij has been probably the best defender in Serie A, with Godin struggling due to playing in a wide centre-back role for the first time.
While Bastoni has grown in stature after having done well in a loan spell at Parma last season, Inter still do not have an established left-footed central defender in the team. Danilo D’Ambrosio has been ever-reliable at either right wing-back or in right centre-back. Bastoni will certainly go onto play that role, but there isn’t a like-minded player who can guide him on.
He is key to the team’s build-up from the back. Inter rely on the centre-backs playing the wing-backs, who pick out the two strikers in Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku. That has been the pattern for how they play. And that is why Vertonghen fits right in.
Under Mauricio Pochettino last season, Vertonghen had completed 69.9 passes per game with an accuracy of 87.5 percent. Helping the team build from the back is a key part of Vertonghen’s armoury- something the Ajax way of grooming players has given him.
He will be a very good guide for Bastoni and he’s experienced- like Godin. The concern about this would be the three-at-the-back again. But Italy happens to be a league that is more structured and tactical. There are more complex defensive shapes and experienced defenders do well in it. Chris Smalling is a recent example. Federico Fazio is one too. Juventus had Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli play regularly under Conte himself.
Chiellini was key in that. Like Vertonghen, he was capable of playing at left-back and could play the ball out comfortably. In the Belgian, Conte would have the sort of player who will be crucial to the system. His current deal runs out at the end of the season and it will be the sort of cut-price deal that Inter like.
Unlike how it is at Spurs, Vertonghen will have a reliable midfield structure that will protect him. Nicolo Barella and Marcelo Brozovic have become reliable ball-winners- something Vertonghen will benefit from.
At 32, he will have the support to thrive at Inter. He can pass on his experience to Bastoni and it will help both parties on many levels.