Ajax's Alderweireld thrives on art of defending

AFC Ajax's Toby Alderweireld "hates conceding goals". It is this miserly approach to his job that has helped the 21-year-old's rapid rise to becoming a "top defender in the making".

Toby Alderweireld "hates conceding goals". It is such a miserly approach to to his job that has contributed to this AFC Ajax centre-back's rapid rise to becoming a "top defender in the making".

Name: Toby Alderweireld
AFC Ajax
18 January 2009 v NEC Nijmegen
Date of birth:

Alderweireld joined the Ajax academy from KFC Germinal Beerschot Antwerpen in 2004, following a route also trodden by Thomas Vermaelen, Tom De Mul and Jan Vertonghen. Having come under consideration during Adrie Koster's spell at the helm, it was not until Marco van Basten assumed the reins that this 21-year-old made his debut. His European bow followed straight away, a late substitute appearance in the UEFA Cup round of 32 tie against ACF Fiorentina.

Blessed with fine distribution, strong aerial ability and a devastating shot, the centre-back soon became a regular under Martin Jol's charge. A frequent starter domestically and in European competition, Alderweireld begun to form a strong defensive partnership with compatriot Vertonghen.

He assured himself of a place in the Eredivisie giants' history books on 3 November, heading in Ajax's 100th UEFA Champions League goal in the 2-1 Group G defeat by AJ Auxerre. He was also swift to endear himself to new coach Frank de Boer, scoring the second – a fearsome strike – in his side's 2-0 win against AC Milan on Matchday 6.

Such performances for his club have duly been rewarded on the international stage, his maiden senior appearance coming in a friendly draw against Chile in May 2009. Nine more caps – including four in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying – have followed since.

Breakthrough game
Heracles Almelo 0-3 AFC Ajax
30/08/09, Eredivisie

Thrust up front in the fifth match of the 2009/10 Eredivisie campaign, Alderweireld opened the scoring with a 68th-minute header from a Demy de Zeeuw corner and showed himself to be equally adept at both ends of the field.

He says:
"I have learned in European matches I have to maintain concentration. The level is higher, but you automatically adjust to that. In the league, Ajax have to dominate the opponents because everyone expects us to play better and control the game."
On adjusting to European competition

"Goals often occur because of personal mistakes – they can happen to anyone. Every misjudgement can be fatal because I defend 35 metres from goal. That is the difficulty with being a defender at Ajax. We are young so we learn. I prefer to win 3-0 rather than 4-1 – I hate conceding goals."
On being a miserly defender

They say:
"Toby is a very young defender – he had a very good season last year. Of course he makes mistakes, but he has to learn from them. Toby has done great for us up until now, and everybody here at the club thinks the same.

"We all know what his qualities are, and he knows himself what he has to work on, and that's what all of us are doing. The advantage for Toby is that he's very young, and has already experienced a lot. He has played a lot at a club like Ajax, so that's been very good for him."
Ajax keeper Maarten Stekelenburg

"Toby is an extremely talented defender – he is a real defender. I needed only two matches to be convinced about him. He is not only good at defending, he is also good in the build -up; a top player in the making."
Former Ajax coach Martin Jol