Jan Vertonghen has stopped sulking and improved his mentality to become one of the best centre-backs in Europe, according to his manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Mauricio Pochettino said Jan Vertonghen’s “mental aspect,” particularly his body language, has changed since they started working together in 2014 and he described the 30-year-old as the club’s most-consistent defender.
Jan Vertonghen is one of just 14 players to have played every minute in the Premier League this season
After a fine maiden season in England, Vertonghen struggled under coaches Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood in 2013-14 and footage of him lounging against the wall of the tunnel ahead of a 4-0 defeat at Liverpool epitomised Tottenham’s apathy pre-Pochettino.
“He has improved in an aspect that was so important for him — the mental aspect,” Pochettino said. “Now he is a complete centre-back. We have worked a lot together to reach the level that he is at today.
“I remember his body language when I watched the game against Liverpool when [Luis] Suarez scored, the season before we came.
“He was slouched in the tunnel,” said Pochettino, who stood up to imitate Vertonghen’s relaxed stance.
“When I came, I told him: ‘Why are you like that? You are here for a battle! You cannot show this body language — you are a warrior!’ It is difficult after showing this energy to go out and take part in a battle and fight.
“We worked a lot on this aspect and, yes, it is true that we clash a lot in training because he is clever and always has an argument and a reason why, but in the end I appreciate a lot his efforts in giving the team what we expect from him.
“It is good to praise him because he is a very good player who sometimes does not get valued enough.
“I am so proud that he has achieved this level today. Not only on the pitch but off the pitch. In my opinion he’s one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League and in Europe.”
“He has unbelievably quality, physical condition, technique,” Pochettino added. “He is so strong, he looks like a 20-year-old because when he runs he is fast, he is like my new dog — a Rhodesian Ridgeback!
“It is easy for him to run. Physicality is his talent. It is genetic, it is his natural condition. He is an athlete. It is up to him but he could play until he is 40.
“The club believe that he needs to be rewarded. He’s one of the players that deserves [a new contract].”