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Jan Vertonghen

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Jan Vertonghen

Jan Vertonghen
Vertonghen with Ajax in 2011
Personal information
Full name Jan Bert Lieve Vertonghen[1]
Date of birth (1987-04-24) 24 April 1987
Place of birth Sint-Niklaas, Belgium
Height 1.89 m (6 ft 2 in)[2]
Playing position Centre back
Club information
Current team
Tottenham Hotspur
Number 5
Youth career
1997–2000 VK Tielrode
2000–2003 Germinal Beerschot
2003–2006 Ajax
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2006–2012 Ajax 155 (23)
2006–2007 RKC Waalwijk (loan) 12 (3)
2012– Tottenham Hotspur 93 (5)
National team
2002 Belgium U16 6 (1)
2006-2009 Belgium U21 23 (0)
2007– Belgium 72 (5)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 25 October 2015.
† Appearances (goals)

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of October 2015

Jan Bert Lieve Vertonghen (Dutch pronunciation: ; born 24 April 1987) is a Belgian footballer who plays as a defender for English club Tottenham Hotspur and the Belgian national team. He is the vice-captain for Spurs. A left-footed player who usually plays as a centre back, he is equally adept at playing anywhere on the left side or in defensive midfield and frequently joins in the attack from his centre back position. Although playing as a defender, Vertonghen is well known for his offensive prowess and powerful shooting ability.

After the departure of Luis Suárez for Liverpool in January 2011, Vertonghen was appointed as vice-captain of AFC Ajax under captain Maarten Stekelenburg; following Stekelenburg's transfer to Roma, Vertonghen was made captain. In 2012, Vertonghen was named Dutch Footballer of the Year. After his transfer to Tottenham in July 2012, he won Premier League Player of the Month in March 2013, making himself the second Belgian and the 12th Spurs player to win the award.[3]

Club career

Vertonghen with Andriy Shevchenko


After spending time at VK Tielrode and Germinal Beerschot, Vertonghen moved to the Netherlands and signed a contract with the youth academy of Eredivisie side AFC Ajax. He began as a midfielder but then became a regular at centre back for Ajax.[4] During his time in the reserves, he became known for an incident in the 2006 KNVB Cup game against Cambuur Leeuwarden, his first ever home game at the Amsterdam Arena, where he "scored" a bizarre goal to put Ajax 3–0 up. He had attempted a back pass to the Cambuur goalkeeper while a teammate was receiving treatment but instead the ball sailed past the shocked goalkeeper, much to the amusement of the spectators and the bewilderment of the players. Since the goal was obviously unintentional, in a remarkable display of sportsmanship, Ajax allowed Cambuur to score a goal in return.[5]

Loan to RKC

On 23 August 2006, Vertonghen made his first team debut in the Champions League third qualifying round against Copenhagen. He made his first start and Eredivisie debut in a 6–0 win over Willem II at the Amsterdam ArenA and would play another two matches for the first half of the season. After the winter break, he was sent on loan to struggling RKC Waalwijk for the remainder of the season. At RKC, he would play 12 matches in which he scored three times, but he was unable to help the team avoid relegation to the Eerste Divisie.

Vertonghen returned to Ajax for the 2007–08 season, where he was tipped for stardom, but was unable to break through due to a severe injury and the presence of central defenders John Heitinga and Thomas Vermaelen. Johan Cruyff had made no secret of his admiration for the left-footed youngster who can handle any left-sided position in defence and midfield, opting, on 26 September 2008, to extended his contract to 30 June 2013.

Vertonghen (right) with Thomas Vermaelen.

Breakthrough at Ajax

The 2008–09 season was a breakthrough season for the young defender. After John Heitinga left for Atlético Madrid, Vertonghen became Thomas Vermaelen's first-choice partner in central defence; the former started 23 of the 26 games he played in and scored four goals. On 28 September, he scored a rare double against Vitesse in a 3–0 win. Although sustaining an injury from training during the week, he played in the 24 January match against Groningen, billed as a "must-win" match by coach Marco van Basten;[6] Vertonghen was unfortunate enough to be sent off for two yellow cards as Ajax lost 1–0. He was out for a month after sustaining a hamstring injury in the 1 March win away at Utrecht, but his return lasted only several games after his season was prematurely ended after aggravating another injury.

Rising importance under Jol

Vertonghen with Maarten Stekelenburg.

Under new coach Martin Jol, Vertonghen retained his place in the starting line-up for the 2009–10 season. Despite injuring his toe while on international duty against Spain the previous week, he scored his first goal of the season, a free kick, in a 6–0 thrashing of NAC Breda on 13 September.[7] With the departure of Thomas Vermaelen to Arsenal, he and fellow Belgian Toby Alderweireld become the first choice centre back pairing and soon became a firm fans' favourite.[8] Despite Ajax's erratic form in the latter weeks leading up to the winter break, he turned in some strong performances and attracted the interest of a number of clubs, including Barcelona, but he played down the rumours, stating his intent to at least see out his contract with Ajax.[9][10]

After the winter break, Ajax went on a nine-game unbeaten streak in the league, with Vertonghen playing a key role. Their run of six consecutive clean sheets was ended in a 4–1 home win over PSV when the visiting side were awarded a penalty. Vertonghen was linked with a move to Newcastle United, and later he was also linked with Milan, stating, "I've heard Milan Director Adriano Galliani talk about me after the Champions League match in San Siro and his words were very flattering."[11]

Vertonghen (top right) captaining Ajax.

Vertonghen stated on numerous occasions late in the 2010–11 season that he was considering leaving Ajax at the end of that season.[12][13] In May 2011, Frank de Boer confirmed Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini was present at the 2011 KNVB Cup Final held on 7 May 2011, where Vertonghen's side lost 3–2 to Twente.[14] Mancini was reportedly scouting Vertonghen to strengthen his side after they had qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2011–12 campaign.[15]

Breakthrough under De Boer

During the 2011–12 Eredivisie season, Vertonghen emerged as one of Ajax's best players, demonstrating his versatility to cover multiple positions after Ajax had let several regular players out on long-term loans. After an impressive season, including a performance for which he was singled out for praise against Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League Round of 16, he was named the 2011–12 Eredivisie Player of the Year. Named team captain by Frank de Boer, he led his Ajax to their second title in a row, scoring eight goals in 31 league games, highlighting his attacking strengths. Also, for the second time, he dropped the Championship plate. "Now it falls on my toe – this plate just does not like me," Vertonghen said.[16]

Tottenham Hotspur

Vertonghen (right) playing for Tottenham Hotspur in 2014.

Throughout the 2011–12 season, Vertonghen was linked with English club Tottenham Hotspur and publicly expressed his desire to make the move to White Hart Lane ahead of numerous other teams, including North London rivals Arsenal. A key factor in this was his desire to play as a centre back, with Arsenal wanting to use him as a defensive midfielder. On 8 July 2012, Tottenham agreed a fee and terms for Vertonghen subject to a medical.[17] On 12 July, Tottenham announced that they had officially completed the signing of Vertonghen after he successfully completed his medical.[18] Vertonghen took part in his first game as a Tottenham player in a 3–2 friendly win against Brentford on 14 July, then later scored his first goal for the club on 26 September in a 3–0 win against Carlisle United in the third round of the Football League Cup.[19]

Vertonghen scored his Premier League goal against Manchester United in a historic 2–3 win at Old Trafford, although this was later ruled to be an own goal by Jonny Evans.[20] He scored in the league for Tottenham on 16 December, the only goal of the game, in a win at White Hart Lane against Swansea City.[21] Vertonghen then scored a brace in a losing effort against Liverpool on 10 March. He was named Premier League Player of the Month for March 2013 for his consistent good performances. On 11 April 2013, Vertonghen was sent-off against Basel during Tottenham's Europa League quarter–final second leg. Tottenham went on to lose the tie 4–1 on penalties after a 4–4 draw on aggregate.[22] Vertonghen was named in the 2012–13 PFA Team of the Year, alongside Rio Ferdinand, Leighton Baines and Pablo Zabaleta in defence. However, he was criticised for his bad attitude when having to play left back.

At the start of the 2014–15 season, Vertonghen appeared to be out of favour with new manager Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine gave Vertonghen limited games, preferring Younès Kaboul and Federico Fazio. However, Kaboul lost his place to Vertonghen, who formed an effective partnership with Fazio. Together, the pair, over fifteen games, celebrated 11 wins and only suffered one loss.

Vertonghen was joined in defence by his compatriot, Toby Alderweireld, at the start of the 2015-16 season. Over the first ten games of the season, Vertonghen and Alderweireld played 10 out of the opening 10 games together, recording only one loss.

International career

Vertonghen with Belgian teammate Romelu Lukaku

Vertonghen made his international debut at the under-21 level in 2006 and played in the 2007 UEFA U21 Championships. On 2 June 2007, he made his senior debut for the national team in a 2–1 loss against Portugal. He was also selected for the 2008 Olympics and played in every match as the Belgians unexpectedly took fourth place.

In the 2010 World Cup qualifying, he began to establish himself as a regular, initially at centre back as former Ajax teammate Thomas Vermaelen's partner. He scored the opening goal, also his first ever international goal,[23] in an August 2009 friendly against the Czech Republic that ended in a 3–1 loss. On 7 September 2009 in a World Cup qualifying away match against Spain, he injured his toe and had to be stretchered off and substituted in the 29th minute. The match ended bad as well; a 5–0 loss.[24] Now he usually plays as leftback as Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany are the preferred pairing in central defence.[25] He was back in the starting eleven for the friendly against Hungary, a 3–0 win[26] and the 1–0 loss to Croatia the following March.

On 13 May 2014, Vertonghen was named in Belgium's squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.[27] In the team's opening match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup against Algeria national football team, the African side was awarded a penalty after Vertonghen pulled down Sofiane Feghouli and received a yellow card. Feghouli scored for Algeria from the penalty spot[28] but Belgium came back to win 2–1. He was then replaced by Thomas Vermaelen in the starting line-up for the second match against Russia on 22 June.[29] After 31 minutes, however, Vermaelen was taken off with an injury and replaced by Vertonghen.[29] In the final group match, Vertonghen captained the team and scored the winning goal as Belgium beat South Korea 1–0.[30] With his great international performances, the Belgian press nicknamed him "Sterke Jan" (Strong Jan).

Early in the 2014–15 season, Vertonghen knocked out a child with a misplaced shot during a training session with the Belgian squad.[31]

International goals

Score and Result lists Belgium's goals first.

Career statistics

As of 12 April 2015.[32][33]
Vertonghen (top right) played for Ajax from 2003 – 2012.
Club Season League Cup Europe Other Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Ajax 2006–07 3 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 6 0
RKC Waalwijk (loan) 2006–07 12 3 2 0 –– 6 0 20 3
Ajax 2007–08 31 2 3 0 1 0 2 0 37 2
2008–09 26 4 2 0 7 1 0 0 35 5
2009–10 32 3 7 0 10 0 0 0 49 3
2010–11 32 6 6 1 13 1 0 0 51 8
2011–12 31 8 3 2 8 0 0 0 42 10
Tottenham Hotspur 2012–13 34 4 3 1 12 1 0 0 49 6
2013–14 23 0 2 0 8 1 0 0 33 1
2014–15 26 1 8 0 7 0 0 0 41 1
Total 250 31 36 4 69 4 8 0 363 39





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  19. ^ "Carlisle 0–3 Tottenham" BBC Sport. 26 September 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  20. ^ "Spurs end United hoodoo" Skysport. 29 September 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  21. ^ "Premier League – Vertonghen strike sinks Swansea" UK Yahoo. 16 December 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
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  28. ^ Felini Inspires Belgium to Comeback Win – BBC Sport online, Accessed 17/06/2014
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External links

  • Jan Vertonghen at
  • Belgium Stats at Belgian FA
  • Jan Vertonghen – FIFA competition record
  • Jan Vertonghen – UEFA competition record
  • Jan Vertonghen at
  • Jan Vertonghen career statistics at Soccerbase
  • ESPN Soccernet profile
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Maarten Stekelenburg
Ajax captain
Succeeded by
Siem de Jong
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