Belgians and Roma, it has not always been a good marriage. Right now you could say the score is 1-1. One turned out to be the chouchou of most fans. He was a warrior in midfield, a pitbull scoring spectacular goals and loving life in the Eternal City—Radja Nainggolan. Dani, Fazio, Florenzi, Strootman, Totti, Kolarov, coach Spalletti, they all loved the crazy Ninja. Yes, he left us recently but he gave us four amazing years and emotions.
The second Belgian, well... Not really as popular as Radja. Thomas Vermaelen joined Roma on loan from Barcelona for one year in 2016 but he was rarely healthy and missed a lot of games. Like, A LOT of games. Injuries have haunted Thomas ever since 2013, so it wasn’t a surprise he didn’t feature in 90% of the matches that season. He left unnoticed through the Trigoria backdoor one year later.
Oh well, as a native Belgian I still had Radja to represent our fabulous country and flag. But since a week my Belgian heart started to beat a bit faster, as news came out that linked AS Roma to Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld, mainly thanks to Baldini’s influence. The CB/RB of the Belgian NT could be the ideal addition to Fonseca’s squad now that Manolas and Marcano left. Let me explain why.
Toby, born near the city of Antwerp, started his career at Beerschot and later on Ajax, just like Vertonghen, his partner in crime at Tottenham. After winning three championships in the Netherlands, he joined Atletico where he played alongside fellow Belgian Courtois. Alderweireld wasn’t an ever-present force at Atletico because Juanfran, Godin and Miranda were the absolute favorites and pillars of Simeone’s side. The poor boy didn’t stand a chance.
Nevertheless, Toby did become part of the team that not only won the Spanish Liga but also reached the CL final. He gained valuable experience, but at the age of 25 Toby desperately wanted more minutes on the pitch.
From 2014 on, things started to get interesting for Toby as he went to Southampton on loan. In the Premier League he turned into one of the most promising defenders of the league, earning the attention of various other Premier league sides. Ironically, Vertonghen (again, him) was already at Tottenham since 2012 so the choice was easy for Toby.
In the Summer of 2015 the Spurs bought Toby for about 12M pounds. Curious fact: Current Roman CB Fazio was also a part of Tottenham those days.
Anyway, in his first season at White Hart Lane he played all 38 games in the EPL. You could say the boy has finally grown up and turned into a man in London. He was seen as one of the best defenders in England and the stats speak for themselves: Tottenham had the best defensive record of the league and Toby was part of the Team of the Year. Not bad.
Alderweireld was once again on fire in the following season, as Tottenham set a new club record for fewest goals conceded (26 goals of which only 9 came during home games). Injuries doomed his third season at the club so he didn’t rack up as many appearances as before, but Toby fought back and returned to the side in the second half of 2018. He reached the CL final for the second time in his career last June. Sadly, he lost that second one as well.
What’s great about Toby is that he isn’t only a fan favorite in England, but also in his home country. With his NT he achieved great things in the World Cups of 2014 and 2018 (Belgium’s best result ever), even reaching number one in FIFA World Ranking with teeny tiny Belgium. 90 caps and a lot more to follow. Alderweireld has been a rock for both club and country since 2014, both as a centreback and a rightback.
That’s why I’m so excited about this news. This isn’t just a Juan Jesus, Moreno or Mapou we’re talking about. This is Toby, a versatile defender with a great long pass, stamina, flair, plenty of experience and (I simply gotta share this) amazing tattoos. Just check some of them online. Trust me, it doesn’t get better than Toby this zummer.
We had to say goodbye to Manolas which was hard, but Alderweireld could make us forget about Greece Lightning in a flash. At the age of 30 he’s at his peak and could easily perform at the highest level for 3-4 more years. Hopefully in Rome. Pair him with a guy like Fazio or Mancini and Petrachi could be on to something here.
One more thing. In Belgium there’s a children’s program which features a character called Mega Toby. In Italy, Roma might have their own Mega Toby very soon.
Go get my boy, Petrachi.