Tottenham reportedly won't meet Toby Alderweireld's asking price on a new contract, but there's plenty of reason for the club to do what it takes to hold onto its center back rock.
For three years now, Toby Alderweireld has been the beating heart in the middle of a rock-solid Tottenham Hotspur defense.
Forming a formidable partnership with fellow ex-Ajax center back Jan Vertonghen, the Belgian has barely put a foot wrong for Spurs, gliding elegantly around the pitch and cutting out danger without so much as troubling his always perfectly coiffed hair.
Recently, however, there have been rumblings that this beautiful partnership may soon be coming to an end. Eyebrows were raised when Alderweireld was left out of the squad to face Arsenal (despite appearing to have recovered from injury), and the murmurings grew even louder when he didn't make the plane to Turin for the Champions League clash against Juventus.
On Friday morning, the Times broke the story that Spurs appear unwilling to raise their offer of a new contract from £110,000 per week to the £150,000 that Alderweireld is asking for, suggesting the player may well move on in the summer. This refusal could prove to be chairman Daniel Levy's biggest mistake.
Tottenham's resistance to go overboard when dealing with player wages is in many ways commendable. In an era where spoiled, tantrum-throwing players are being paid more money per week than most people earn in a lifetime, it is refreshing to see Spurs spending within their limit, and the dignified way in which they dealt with Danny Rose's explosive interview with the Sun demanding more money last summer was refreshing to see.
Yet at the same time, the club have to start being realistic. Alderweireld is allegedly earning £50k per week on his current deal. Other top center backs such as Gary Cahill and John Stones are thought to be on double that amount, and yet both are arguably below Alderweireld in terms of ability.
Spurs are rumored to be preparing a club record £200k-per-week contract offer to talisman Harry Kane at the end of the season, and while Alderweireld is not quite on Kane levels in terms of importance to the club, he is not that far off either. The fact that Spurs are offering him a salary of just over half of what they want to give Kane is almost insulting to a player of the Belgian's quality.
Some may argue that at 29, Alderweireld is not getting any younger, and that cashing in on him now would be a wise move, especially when Spurs have other young upcoming defenders in the likes of Davinson Sanchez and Juan Foyth in their ranks.
But is worth remembering that some of the best defenders ever played well into their 30s, and in some cases even hit their peak around the time. The great Paolo Maldini played at the highest level until the grand old age of 41, for example, and Giorgio Chiellini has been a big part of the Juventus defense that has conceded just one goal in 12 Serie A games, and he is approaching 34.
So there is no doubt that Alderweireld could still have a good few years left in him, and as talented as the likes of Sanchez and Foyth are, they are not yet at the Belgian's level.
Spurs fans were disappointed to see Kyle Walker depart for Manchester City in the summer, but the loss of Alderweireld would be a blow on a whole other level. It would further cement the image of Tottenham as a 'nearly club', one happy to cash in on their best players, a team that are so close to success, yet always just miss out.
This speculation also comes at the worst possible time, with Spurs in fantastic form and fans starting to dream of a trophy in the form of the FA Cup or, slightly more ambitiously, even the Champions League. This constant speculation has the potential to ruin that momentum.
So this is one occasion where Daniel Levy simply has to go against his principles and cough up the cash. Alderweireld signing a new deal would be a huge boost to everybody at the club, and could set the team up perfectly for a strong run at the end of the season.
On the other hand, Spurs losing their best defender before moving into their brand new shining stadium would be a bitter pill to swallow. So come on Daniel, do the right thing.