Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino will not select Toby Alderweireld just to help him secure a place in Belgium’s World Cup squad.
Alderweireld, whose negotiations over a new contract have reportedly stalled, has featured just twice for Spurs in 2018 due to injury and the form of Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez.
Belgium boss Roberto Martinez warned the defender he needs regular minutes if he is going to earn a starting berth in Russia, but Pochettino will not let that affect his selection process.
“I have an amazing relationship with Roberto,” he said. “I understand his comment, like all the managers. If I am the Belgium manager, England manager or Argentina manager, I want all my players to play.
“But my focus is to manage Tottenham and win games with Tottenham. I cannot be kind with every single manager.
“I need to care for my club and I can only pick 11 players and we have plenty of international players. I can only pick 11 on Sunday (at Chelsea) and if I pick one, another needs to stay on the bench or out of the squad.
“Toby in the last four months has struggled with his injury. I am not going to change the system because Toby needs games for the World Cup.
“I need to pick two centre-backs and if you are happy you keep the couple of players and he needs to wait.
“The interest for me is Tottenham, it’s about Tottenham to win. I understand the (Belgium) manager but what can I do?”
Pochettino has not shut the door completely on the centre-back as Spurs go for Champions League qualification and the FA Cup in the final few weeks of the season.
But the Argentinian also suggested he is well behind Vertonghen and Sanchez in the pecking order, and the Belgian is unlikely to be considered when Tottenham visit Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
“If he keeps working hard he is going to have the opportunity to play and compete, but he is an experienced player,” Pochettino said.
“He needs to be fit and to be fit he needs to train every day.
“I need to pick the players that I believe are the best players to win against Chelsea and then against Stoke (on April 7).
“I am agreed that the players need to play and compete but for me, first of all every single player needs to show in the training session that they are better than their team-mate and then at that moment I pick.”