Toby Alderweireld: ‘The tank was empty’ after Tottenham’s Champions League final defeat

The defender opened up on Mauricio Pochettino’s departure six months after the Champions League final

Jamie Braidwood
Thursday 30 September 2021 14:10
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<p>Toby Alderweireld left Tottenham this summer after six seasons at the club </p>

Toby Alderweireld left Tottenham this summer after six seasons at the club

Former Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld has admitted the “tank was empty” under Mauricio Pochettino following the Champions League final defeat to Liverpool in 2019.

Pochettino was sacked following a poor run of form the following season, six months after guiding Spurs to the club’s first Champions League final and on the back of four consecutive top-four finishes in the Premier League.

The Argentine was replaced by Jose Mourinho, who was unable to return Spurs to the Champions League before he was sacked in April, with the club now undergoing a challenging rebuild under Nuno Espirito Santo.

Alderweireld left Spurs this summer to join Qatari side Al-Duhail SC and although he insisted that he did not look back on the club’s failure to win a trophy under Pochettino with a sense of regret, the Belgian international revealed they missed out on the opportunity to win silverware in their peak years together.

He told the Evening Standard: “[The Champions League] would have been the trophy for our golden generation. With the money we spent – almost nothing – and the way we played, it would have been an unbelievable achievement, especially if you saw the teams we beat.

“Afterwards the tank was empty. After a couple of seasons, it was one too many. When I look back now, we needed a bigger break to really have the desire to go again. The disappointment was too fresh.

“It was the same for everyone, even Poch. A manager’s career is different but the opportunity of Champions League Finals is [rare].

“I know for sure he loves Spurs, even to this day, and to achieve it with the club at the time would have been maybe the biggest achievement ever in Spurs’ history. So it’s logical. He needed time to refresh himself and get the desire to go again.”

Alderweireld compared Tottenham’s training under Pochettino to being in the “army” but said it built a mentality within the team that pushed them to challenge for the Premier League title in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

The 32-year-old admitted the team eventually lost the energy to maintain their high-pressing style under Pochettino and the club had to rebuild following the departure of senior players such as Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen following the Champions League final.

He added: “The team was so close. You get close because the Pochettino way is not the easy way. You work so hard every day. Days off are very, very rare.

“You get the same as the army really. You get angry but you get fitter, you get better. You do it and it creates a group, like, ‘Let’s do it together’. So that was the feeling, especially in the seasons with Leicester, Chelsea, the Champions League.

“Then some players go and some players come and it needs redoing. Sometimes you need chemistry that works. I’m not saying it didn’t work but we have to be honest. The group we had then was a very special group of friendship.”

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