Former Mamelodi Sundowns defender, Clayton Daniels says that the Belgian defender Vertoghen was supposed to move to Manchester City.
“Hare”, Daniels nickname, spoke to This Is Football.Africa on the changes that took place in his mindset in terms of professionalism and the importance of maintaining high standards, especially in training.
“Before I joined Sundowns from Ajax Cape Town, I went to Holland for a trial with Ajax Amsterdam. I had a good trial there, and that is where my mentality with regards to football changed,” Clayton Daniels told TIFA.
“Whilst at Ajax Cape Town, I was young and very naive, I could say even a little bit arrogant in my game and thinking I’m the best or whatever. When I came back from Ajax Amsterdam, that is when I matured as a player. I could see how players were training at a higher level, the type of things they were doing at training, how serious they took it and all the qualities that they were showing at training. The things that we take for granted like a 5v2 rondo game, we take an exercise like this for granted in SA. We think it’s play time, but in Amsterdam that was their bread and butter. They thrive on those kinds of things, they take drills like that seriously. If you lose the ball in a 5v2, they are angry at you, here if we lose the ball we are laughing about it. That’s where my maturity came and where my eyes were opened, seeing how players operate at an elite level.”
Daniels further talks about his trial at AFC Ajax in Amsterdam, and explains the details behind what transpired and the direction his journey took after this amazing experience, even though it could have ended much more differently.
“The reason why they brought me to Ajax Amsterdam, is because the captain at the time, Jan Vertonghen was supposed to sign for Manchester City, and I was there to replace him. At the time, I was around 25 years old and they wanted me to replace him, a direct replacement. But in the end he never signed the contract with Manchester City. He then came back to Ajax and the club told me you are a good player, but it’s no use if we have a 25 year old and like you sitting on the bench now that the captain has come back. They would rather use a 18 or 19 year old as cover to sit on the bench. Small margins yes, if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be. If only the timing was right, because the following season Vertoghen signed for Tottenham, and I went to Sundowns.”