Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld finally joins Tottenham Hotspur for $18 million

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It took a while, but Tottenham Hotspur finally have their man.

In addition to linking up with the NFL on Tuesday in a 10-year partnership, Spurs announced that they’ve signed Toby Alderweireld on a five-year contract from Atletico Madrid.

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Alderweireld, 26, spent last season on loan at Tottenham’s Premier League rivals Southampton and excelled in the heart of Saints’ defense.

Over the summer many believe Alderweireld would remain at Southampton following his season-long loan, but it soon became clear that Atletico would recall the Belgian international and sell him to the highest bidder after he had a limited impact during his first, and only, season with the La Liga side in the 2013-14 campaign.

A tug of war has taken place between Spurs and Saints for Alderweireld over the past week, as the latter claimed they had a legal right to have first refusal to sign the defender as part of the loan agreement for Alderweireld last season. Southampton claimed that deal stipulated they could sign Alderweireld for a fee of around $10 million after Atletico failed to trigger a clause in time that would shave seen them pay Saints back $2.5 million to regain the full rights for the player. It remains to be seen whether or not Southampton will take legal action over Alderweireld being sold to Spurs.

Regardless, the man from Antwerp is happy to have landed at White Hart Lane as his summer of uncertainty is over.

“It’s a big club and it’s always been a dream to play at a club like Spurs,” Alderweireld said. “Now that dream is coming true so I’m very happy, very proud and I will give my best.”

Alderweireld has played with Spurs’ other Belgian stars Mousa Dembele, Nacer Chadli and Jan Vertonghen for the national team, and also played with Christian Eriksen at Ajax.

His arrival means that Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino now has seven first-team center backs to choose from, but Alderweireld is adaptable as he can play at right back or in a holding midfield role. Last season Spurs were very un-Pochettino as their porous defense (53 goals conceded in 38 PL games) cost them a shot at finishing in the top four.

As for Southampton, first manager Pochettino left them for Spurs last summer, then head of recruitment Paul Mitchell in 2015 and now Alderweireld. Saints fans will be wondering if their former manager will return to try and snap up Morgan Schneiderlin, a target for Manchester United, this summer to add to the signings of Kevin Wimmer and Kieran Trippier and Alderweireld.

Quietly, Spurs are building a strong squad as they look to improve on their fifth-place finish from last season and continue to challenge in the UEFA Europa League.