Arteta delivers verdict on Arsenal's win over Tottenham
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Former Tottenham star Toby Alderweireld has revealed that he received an apology from Jose Mourinho over a bizarre incident that saw the Portuguese mistakenly criticise the defender for returning late from international duty.
Alderweireld was left out of Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Newcastle in April and Mourinho insisted that the reason was because he and Serge Aurier had returned late from the recent international break.
“They were fit, yeah, but they reported for training only yesterday,” Mourinho said after the game.
“They went for their national teams and they didn’t make the Covid tests on time to be in the training session on Thursday, not even on Friday. They come only yesterday.”
But it turned out that Alderweireld had actually been training for three days prior to the trip and was ready to play.
Mourinho’s quotes caused confusion and prompted rumours that he was covering up a fall-out between the pair.
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The Belgian has now detailed the aftermath of the incident and has explained that Mourinho had not meant to group the now-Al-Duhail centre-back in with the players who had returned late.
“We did talk about it. He said: ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean you’. And it was fine,” Alderweireld told the Evening Standard of Mourinho, who was dismissed soon after following a poor period of form.
“Still, I think he’s one of the best, a proven manager.
“He came in a difficult period in Spurs’ history, changing stadium and after the Champions League Final the expectations were so high.
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“But I learned things from him, even if I’m 30, 31, that I still use now in my game. It wasn’t what we both expected maybe but I don’t want to put any blame on him.”
Alderweireld did not sign a new contract offered by the club just a month after Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino in November 2019.
He insists Mourinho’s arrival was not the reason for his decision.
“It was nothing to do with the manager,” the 32-year-old continued. “It looked like that but it wasn’t.”
Mourinho was sacked soon after the draw with Newcastle. Interim boss Ryan Mason guided Spurs to a seventh-place finish.
That did not prevent Alderweireld leaving, though, with the Belgian departing on a free transfer when his contract expired at the end of June. He joined the Qatari side Al-Duhail.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s good money, but I want to see my family a lot more,” Alderweireld explains. “[In European football] there’s more games, more tournaments. I’m on 116 [Belgium] caps. It means I not only play the games but travel.”
He continued: “My daughter is three. My son is one-and-a-half. I miss them a lot. And I miss things from them a lot.
“They grow up, they do their first things. I’m never there. That was a big part for me. Maybe I’d enjoy my football more because I’d be more at home.
“I always had a feeling I wasn’t there. How many Christmases did I miss? How many New Years?
“So I thought if I want to enjoy my football and keep enjoying it, I have to be more at home.”
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