saintsfc.co.uk looks at the career of Saints’ new defender, Toby Alderweireld…
Toby Alderweireld was born on 2nd March 1989 in the Wilrijk, one of the districts of Belgian city Antwerp.
Toby was five when he joined his local side, Germinal Ekeren, where older brothers Steve and Sven had also played. In 1999, Germinal Ekeren merged with K Beershot VAC to become Germinal Beerschot, where Alderweireld would remain until he was 15.
It was at this age that the defender caught the eye of Ajax Amsterdam, who counted Germinal as one of their feeder clubs. In 2003, Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen had swapped Beerschot for Ajax and, a year later, it was time for Alderweireld to do the same.
In August 2004, Alderweireld joined the youth academy of an Ajax side managed by Ronald Koeman, who had spent three years playing for the club before taking charge of its first team in 2001.
During his early years in Amsterdam, Alderweireld began to make a name for himself on the international stage, winning caps for Belgium at every level from under-15 to under-19.
Toby turned professional shortly before his 18th birthday, signing a contract in February 2007. He was promoted to Ajax’s first-team squad for the 2008/09 campaign and was handed the number 38 shirt, having been involved during pre-season.
A week before his 20th birthday, Alderweireld made his competitive debut for Ajax as he came off the bench for the last few minutes of a 4-2 win over NEC Nijmegen on 18th January 2009.
He was called up by Belgium for the first time at the end of the 2008/09 campaign, for Kirin Cup friendlies against Chile and Japan. Alderweireld started both games.
The departure of fellow Belgian Vermaelen for Arsenal that summer opened up a space in the starting XI, and Alderweireld set about forming a defensive partnership with Vertonghen.
He scored his first career goal in a 3-0 win over Heracles in September 2009, and went on to net once more as he racked up more than 40 appearances for Ajax in a season that saw them finish second in the Eredivisie and win the KNVB Cup.
As well as winning his first piece of silverware, Alderweireld was crowned as the club’s Talent of the Year by its supporters in recognition of his growing reputation.
Ajax would go one better in the Eredivisie the following season, winning their first league title since 2003/04. Alderweireld also gained UEFA Champions League experience for the first time that season.
The Amsterdam club retained the title the following season and played in Europe once again, scoring the club’s 100th-ever European Cup/Champions League goal in a game against Auxerre.
Alderweireld won the Eredivisie and played in the Champions League for a third successive season in 2012/13, and continued to win international caps as Belgium set about qualifying for Euro 2012.
After much speculation, the defender finally made his move away from Amsterdam in the final day of last year’s summer transfer window as he agreed to join Spanish side Atlético Madrid, who had won they Copa del Rey and finished third in La Liga the previous season to qualify for the 2013/14 Champions League.
On the international stage, Alderweireld helped Belgium qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup – their first major international tournament in more than a decade. He also scored his first goal for his country, in a 3-2 friendly loss to Maya Yoshida’s Japan.
During his season in Spain, Alderweireld’s new team won the league title on the final day of the season and also reached the Champions League final, where they would lose to Real Madrid.
However, the Belgian found his playing time limited at the Vicente Calderón. He made 12 league appearances plus a further six in the Copa del Rey and another four in the Champions League, including a substitute’s role in that unsuccessful final.
This summer, Alderweireld was named in the Belgium squad for the World Cup finals. He started in the Red Devils’ first two group-stage games – victories over Algeria and Russia – as his side secured their place in the last 32 with a match to spare.
Having been rested for the final game of the group stage, he returned to the team for an extra-time win over the United States and kept his place for their quarter-final against Argentina, which Belgium lost 1-0.
With more than 200 career games, 37 international caps, four league titles and a Champions League final appearance to his name, Alderweireld now joins Southampton for the 2014/15 campaign.