Tottenham Hotspur’s late capture of Rafael van der Vaart in the summer of 2010 is still considered by many of the North London faithful as the best deadline day signing in the club’s recent history.
The Dutchman instantly became a fan favourite among the White Hart Lane faithful for his flair, technique and the passion he displayed for the shirt.
However, the former Tottenham midfielder admitted that he nearly turned down the opportunity to come to Spurs when he first heard of the club’s interest, only to then have a change of heart.
Speaking about his exit from Real Madrid, Van der Vaart told The Athletic: “I was ready to stay another season and prove I was worthy of the (Real Madrid) shirt.
“Just like I did the season before when a new president brought in a new manager and a whole squad of Galacticos like Kaka, (Cristiano) Ronaldo, (Karim) Benzema, and Xabi Alonso. I was told, ‘You’re the number five or six for your position’.
“But after a few tough weeks mostly on the bench, they started bringing me in and I never left. I played 30 or 40 games that season, just like the season before, and we played really well. But was I willing to fight again after I played that well for the club with no reward…?
“It was an international break so I was in Holland. I think the (August 31) deadline was 6 o’clock and at 5.30pm I had a phone call saying I had to make a decision in 20 minutes to do it or not.
“To be honest with you, I knew Tottenham, of course, but I didn’t know that it was that great a club. That’s what I noticed when I played there for the first time, when I saw the facilities and also the players they had.
“So in the beginning I was like, ‘Leave Real Madrid, go to Spurs? I don’t know’. But then I felt something in my stomach. I said, ‘I have to do this’.”
Although Tottenham were on the up under Harry Redknapp, they were not quite the established force they are now.
Some might therefore be forgiven for expecting Van der Vaart to not give his all and view the move as a bit of a step-down.
However, the midfielder wore his heart on his sleeve from day one at the club, which is perhaps what endeared him to Spurs fans.
He said: “For Tottenham fans the biggest club in the world is Tottenham. So when I came to the club, I never saw Tottenham as a step back or said, ‘OK, I want to play two years here and then I want to leave again’.
“I gave 200 per cent, I gave everything every game. At least I tried and I think that’s what people noticed, and I noticed that they really loved me there and had a lot of respect during the game.”
The Dutch legend also opened up on how much he enjoyed playing at White Hart Lane and hearing his name being sung around the ground.
The 38-year-old added: “And to play at White Hart Lane… (Van der Vaart’s eyes widen). You have some days figuring, ‘What today, a game? Again?’ Then you come into the stadium and you’re like, ‘Yeah’, (bares his teeth and puts his fists on the table) Ninety minutes. Full power. We’re gonna show them some nice football. That’s what we always did.”
“It gave me such a power when they started singing the song and I really loved it. I got goosebumps every time and, of course, you then have to play well. I think the connection with the fans was there straight away.”
Have something to tell us about this article?