Our football chief waves goodbye to Toby Alderweireld as a Red Devil: “He was perhaps the one who loved his country the most”

After the World Cup it still sounded that the 127-time international would continue. “Because I proved at the World Cup that I can still handle the level.” That was right. Despite all the concerns about the defense before the trip to Qatar, it was not the Vertonghen-Alderweireld duo that caused the Devils to fail.

What has happened in the meantime? Did the conversation about his future as a Red Devil with the new national coach Domenico Tedesco not go as well as expected? Was his inviolability as titular questioned? Or is the injury he suffered against Union in the semi-final of the cup something to do with it? With three games a week, the risk of injuries increases and after his family, Antwerp FC is his priority. That’s what he said himself.

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Proud of his country

With Alderweireld, one of the most loyal soldiers of the golden generation of Red Devils says goodbye. We remember how he glowed with pride when he made his debut, playing his 100th international match. The whole family in tears. For Belgium, the country of its city of Antwerp. Of all the Devils, he was perhaps the one who loved his country and his city the most. Something he experienced when he enjoyed his education at Ajax in Amsterdam and was devastated by homesickness.

Alderweireld has played 92 percent of all official matches since his debut. No Red Devil does better

Alderweireld’s performances were always so solid with the Devils that it was no longer noticeable how good he was. A six or a seven, rarely an eight or a four. His merits are greater than the points he got from us. The born Wilrijker was also always ready, was almost never injured. In his early days, he solved the problem of the right-back position under national coach Marc Wilmots as a central defender. Initially difficult, but more and more and always with that calm firmness coupled with the tireless commitment that characterizes him.


Of the 148 matches played by the Red Devils since his debut on May 29, 2009 at the Kirin Cup in Japan, he has played 127 times. That is an attendance of 85 percent. This way he gets the highest percentage of all still active Devils. He was mostly left aside in the practice matches. Because of the 105 duels with official commitment (qualification and final round matches for the European Championship, World Cup or Nations League), Alderweireld only missed eight. That’s 92 percent, even better.

To typify: he was the only one of the ideal Belgian defense Alderweird-Kompany-Vermaelen-Vertonghen to participate in that disastrously lost quarter-final against Wales at the European Championship 2016. Typical. Alderweireld was always there. His adaptability and mental toughness are immense. An example.


Below the radar

Yet around the stadiums where the Red Devils played, we rarely saw a fan with a Devils jersey with the name Alderweireld on the upper back. It was his destiny and he didn’t care. Since coming to Antwerp, he already appears once in a TV show such as Extra time, he gives interviews but before that he usually stayed under the radar. He was not a pioneer with the Devils either, preferred to sit on his own. Never a group animal that participated in every activity, wanted to assert itself in a card game or other group event.

Alderweireld did an excellent job. He didn’t become a defender because he couldn’t play football well, but because he thinks defending is an honorable position. A neat player who barely picked up a yellow card even in the demanding Premier League at Tottenham. That passion for that less popular side of football – defending – has also let him shave those high tops with the Red Devils.

Alderweireld makes way for a successor at the Red Devils and we must respect that. It was only a matter of time. But it will be hard to find another pillar that is always there.


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