Rafael Van der Vaart has claimed that the Tottenham team he was part of from 2010 to 2012 was better than the Real Madrid Galacticos side he played in and expressed regret at the way his time at North London came to an end.
Speaking to The Athletic, the former Spurs midfielder said: “(Tottenham was) maybe the best club team I ever played in, quality-wise.”
When asked if they were better even than the Real Madrid side that contained the likes of Ronaldo, Kaka and Alonso, he responded: “Yeah, because as a team understanding, guys like Modric, Bale, Lennon, Defoe, (Ledley) King, Scotty Parker in the middle, Peter Crouch, we had so many good players, with the ball and without the ball, that’s why I performed so good.”
Despite playing some breathtaking football at times, the team failed to win any silverware during Harry Redknapp’s reign at the club and Van der Vart believes that could have been due to the club’s mentality back then.
When asked why that Spurs side did not go on the achieve greater things, he said: “It has to do with a little bit of luck and also that I think Tottenham in that phase was a top club but still a little bit in the middle, let’s say. When you think like that then you’re happy with fourth place.”
“But I’m also proud because in that time, not only England but in the world everybody loved to watch us because we always ended up 3-3, 3-2 so it was never boring with us. The only thing is that we didn’t win anything.”
The Dutch legend admitted that the Tottenham squad he was part of were close knit off the pitch and he still remains in touch with some of the players he played with at White Hart Lane.
He said: “Robbie Keane was my neighbour in Hadley Wood until he left, and then Modric, Crouch, Defoe, (Kyle) Walker, a lot of players we also went for a drink sometimes together.
“I’m still in touch with some of them. Crouch called me the other day, he’s doing a lot of TV stuff and I did an interview with him when I had my testimonial in Hamburg last year.”
The 38-year-old also admitted that he still harbours regret over the way things ended for him in North London and wishes that he could have said a proper goodbye to the White Hart Lane faithful.
He revealed that Andre-Villas Boas, who replaced Redknapp at the helm in 2012, had told him that Gylfi Sigurdsson, who arrived that summer, would be his first-choice number 10.
“That was a slap in the face, so then I thought, ‘OK, maybe it’s better to go because when I’m sitting on the bench then I’m going to be unhappy,” Van der Vaart says.
“You saw the clips, you knew how good I played two years, that was for me really one a big mistake because I knew I was much better and you have an unhappy player because it’s the same as saying to Bale or Modric, ‘Sorry but you start on the bench’. It was strange.”
“I went back a few years later to say goodbye but it’s not the same. I think the fans and also me, we deserved more to say goodbye to each other but I’m so thankful for the people there, the days at White Hart Lane.”
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