Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen can play until he is 40 because of his genetics, according to Mauricio Pochettino.
Vertonghen, 30, has been ever-present for Spurs in the Premier League this season – one of only 14 outfield players to have started every single game this season.
Pochettino, a former defender for Espanyol, Paris Saint-Germain and Argentina, says Vertonghen has developed into one of the best centre-backs in Europe since joining Spurs from Ajax in 2012.
C Palace vs Tottenham
February 25, 2018, 11:30am
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Speaking ahead of Tottenham’s game against Crystal Palace, live on Sky Sports Premier League, he said: “He deserves to be praised. In my opinion, he’s one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League and in Europe.
“I think he is the complete centre-back. We have worked a lot together to reach the level that he is at today.
“He looks like a 20-year-old because it is easy for him to run – he is like my new dog! Physicality is his talent. It is genetic. He is an athlete and he could play until he is 40 because his physical condition comes very naturally to him.”
The Tottenham boss revealed how he had to motivate the Belgium international defender to show more positive body language when he first arrived at the club.
“I remember his body language when I watched a game against Liverpool (March 2014) in the season before I came. He was slouched in the tunnel,” Pochettino continued.
“I told him when I came: ‘Why are you like that? You are here for a battle! You cannot show this body language – you are a warrior!’ It is difficult after showing that lack of energy to go out and take part in a battle.
“Now, though, he is one of the important players in the side.”
Mauricio Pochettino says Toby Alderweireld will be assessed ahead of the Super Sunday game against Crystal Palace after the defender pulled up in training with a leg injury.
Vertonghen and £42m summer arrival Davinson Sanchez are now Spurs’ first-choice centre-back pairing due to Toby Alderweireld’s ongoing injury problems.
Pochettino believes his centre-backs have the makings of a “fantastic partnership”.
“They are a perfect couple and have a really fantastic partnership,” he said.
“Davinson has pace and energy, he is so fast, but he still needs to improve in different aspects and Jan is the perfect partner to help him to achieve all that we believe he can achieve. He is a great talent but he is still young.
“We need to think of [reserve centre-back] Juan Foyth too. He is just 20 but a great talent too. He is going to surprise many people.”