New Saints signing Toby Alderweireld has revealed his delight after Ronald Koeman brought him into the exact environment that he desired on Monday night.
The defender, part of Atlético Madrid’s title-winning campaign last season, found starting opportunities fairly limited at the La Liga side in 2013/14 with 12 league appearances after a summer move from Ajax.
Koeman has significantly strengthened his backline with the deadline day addition of the Belgium international, who was drawn by Southampton’s standing, the challenge of the Premier League and the high level of interest from the man who recruited him on a season-long loan.
“I had a good talk with the coach,” the centre-back told the club’s official YouTube channel. “For me, it was very important for me to play this season. The coach gave me a solution for my option at Atlético. Everyone knows the Premier League and I really wanted to join the Premier League. Koeman’s style of play fits me and I’m very happy to be here.
“It’s a very big step for my career. I had to make the right decision. I think Southampton in this stage of my career is the right step.
“They are up and coming, a very warm club. It’s something I’ve been searching for and it’s great that I find it here. Now, I want to give something back to the club and do all my best to help the team.
“It’s something that everybody says, but I’m very happy to play in the Premier League. It’s a dream come true.”
“It’s nice to hear that he (Koeman) likes my play. He called me and said that he really wants me to come. A trainer that believes in me is really important.”
Despite being part of the side that were crowned champions of Spain last year, Alderweireld was unsure about the prospect of a similar amount of involvement for another campaign and instead headed to the south coast, where he’s eager to repay faith show in him with his vast experience from club level and the international stage.
The first opportunity for Alderweireld to do that falls on Saturday 13 September when Saints welcome Newcastle United at St Mary’s after the international break.
“This season is important because Southampton have put a lot of effort to get me and I want to give something back, give the team everything,” the 25-year-old declared. “I want to do my best, play good and help the team.
“I can’t wait. Of course I’m happy to play for the Belgium team but after that I’ll be very happy to take the flight to Southampton and get involved with the first game.
“I learned a lot [last season]. I played one third of all the games, so I had a good year. I won the league, I played in the Champions League.
“For Belgium I played in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. I have a lot of experience so now I want to give this club my experience to help the team and help the club. I’m really looking forward to it. I have to play more – I agree with that. That’s why I’ve come here.”
Not only was Alderweireld flattered by Koeman’s plan to add him to Southampton’s squad, he also praised the manager for his style of play and his summer additions of Graziano Pellè and Dušan Tadić, who Toby is familiar with from his days in Holland’s top tier of football.
“He plays on the ground, plays football,” the Belgian noted. “At Feyenoord he did great. I think he can make me better as a person and a player.
“Those players are some of the best players from the league, so I think Southampton players have made good transfers from the Eredivisie.”