BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgium defender Toby Alderweireld does not fear for his place in the national team despite leaving Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur for club football in Qatar.
The 32-year-old central defender, who has 113 caps, made the surprise move after this year’s European Championship but said playing at a lower standard should not count against him.
“I will, of course, continue to do my very best to keep up my best level. I’m convinced that this is also possible in Qatar. But I don’t feel like I have to prove myself anymore. I’ve had to do that my whole career,” he told a news conference on Tuesday.
Alderweireld joined Al Duhail in July for a reported 15 million euros ($17.71 million) 18 months after signing a contract extension at Spurs.
“The level in Qatar and at Al Duhail is higher than I expected. Of course, it’s not a Premier League, but the level is better than expected,” added Alderweireld.
“I had a different view myself at first, but I gathered the necessary information beforehand and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Well, I could hardly refuse this adventure, also financially.”
But Alderweireld said leaving Spurs had a lot to do with spending more time with his young family.
“I have two children and at Tottenham I saw them very little. That hurt more and more. In Qatar I will see them more and that is very important to me,” he said.
“I want to see my children grow up and that can be done much better at my current club. At Tottenham it frustrated me that I had to leave my family behind too often. Sometimes we played three times a week, with a night in a hotel before each game.”
Alderweireld is expected to feature for Belgium when they visit Estonia on Thursday, host the Czech Republic on Sunday and travel to Belarus next Wednesday in World Cup qualifiers.
($1 = 0.8470 euros)
(Writing by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris)