Jan Vertonghen’s contract at Tottenham Hotspur will expire in the summer and he is likely to leave Spurs as a free agent.

The centre-back arrived in north London from Ajax in 2012 after spending nine years with the Eredivisie side.

Having spent three years in their academy, the Belgian made his debut for the Amsterdam club in 2006.

During part of Vertonghen’s time in Ajax’s youth system, Louis van Gaal was the technical director of the Dutch side. Thomas Vermaelen was also at the club and the ex-Arsenal man was then with the first team.

Het Nieuwsblad have interviewed Van Gaal and asked him whose development [between Vertonghen and Vermaelen] surprised him the most.

“Vertonghen. I liked Vermaelen early on. I wanted him later, at Manchester United. Vertonghen became a starter at Tottenham – unlike Vermaelen who did not make it at Barcelona – even though he was not always in his best position,” Van Gaal said.

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“Vertonghen is a left central defender. He can never be a left back, because he is too slow for that. He has a good tactical insight, a good eye for orientation.”

The 33-year-old’s contract with José Mourinho’s side will expire on June 30th and there have been rumours Ajax could try to bring their former player back to the club.

When asked if he would prefer Vertonghen back to Ajax, Van Gaal said: “I am against bringing players back. When Frank Rijkaard returned to Ajax, I had trouble with that. And that eventually became a golden purchase. I would dare to do it with Vertonghen. He has the level tactically and technically.

“And like the time he was substituted at Tottenham (in tears at his replacement against Southampton), that affected me so much. That really touched me.

“When you deal with your profession as a player, you have to be a good person. And then there is a good chance that you want to take revenge from that disappointment.”