(Reuters) - Tottenham Hotspur defender Toby Alderweireld’s exclusion from the team is not due to the Belgian’s contract situation, the Premier League club’s manager Mauricio Pochettino has said.
Alderweireld, 29, has featured just twice for Tottenham since returning from a hamstring injury he sustained in October and was left out of last weekend’s trip to Chelsea despite playing in Belgium’s friendly win over Saudi Arabia last month.
The centre-back has a year left on his contract and is yet to sign a new deal at the club. Pochettino said Alderweireld’s lack of action was purely related to performance.
“I don’t care about the personal situations with the club,” Pochettino told reporters on Friday. “If they show me they deserve to play, they are going to play... It is about providing the team with the best tools to win.
“I cannot consider if they have a one-year contract, six months or 10 years...
“My decision is always about football. It is not personal and not because of a contract problem... Always my decision is about what is best for the team and the best for the club.”
Pochettino said that Alderweireld, who has been a key player for Spurs in recent years, must earn his place back by showing he can play better than the other defenders.
“I am so sorry because Toby was an important player for us in the last two seasons,” Pochettino added. “Then he got the injury and players like Davinson and (Jan) Vertonghen stepped up, and you have got to deserve to play.
“If we are happy with the players who are playing, you need to wait... now he needs to keep pushing and try to show me he can play better than the others.”
Tottenham, who are currently fourth in the league, travel to Stoke City later on Saturday.
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru