“Hallo! I’m Rafael Van der Vaart and I’m currently playing for Hamburg in Germany. I started the season with Tottenham where I’d spent two great years. The move from Real Madrid to London on the last day of the transfer window in August, 2010 was unexpected but then two years later I was was involved in another end of August move, this time from Spurs as I rejoined Hamburg. I had a brilliasnt first year with Spurs in the Champions League, then last year it was fantastic for the first half of the season and in the end we were unfortunate to miss out on making this season’s tournament. The fans at White Hart Lane loved me and I enjoyed playing for Spurs.”
Rafael Van der Vaart, in his two seasons with Spurs, made 78 appearances and scored 28 goals, many of them memorable especially the one against Arsenal in last season’s north London derby at White Hart Lane. He also put himself into contention for Tottenham ‘Legendary’ status with his contribution to Tottenham’s first ever win at the Emirates in his first season in November, 2010. He was involved in all three goals – he had an assist for Spurs’ first goal, won a penalty from a free-kick and then scored the penalty to equalise as Spurs recovered from a two goal deficit. The 3 -2 win came courtesy of a Younes Kaboul header from a Van der Vaart free-kick with only minutes remaining.
Van der Vaart knew the importance of the north London derby and seemed to lift his game for such contests. He scored twice in April, 2011, including a 70th minute equalising penalty as Spurs again recovered from two goals down in a 3 – 3 draw at White Hart Lane.
Van der Vaart made an immediate impact at Tottenham playing in the support role to the main striker and he also provided a creativity that is currently missing in the Spurs team. He could do the unexpected to produce a goal from nowhere. He scored on his home debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers and was on the scoresheet in his first six matches at White Hart Lane, scoring seven goals, including the first in the incredible Champions League win over Inter Milan. He linked up well with Peter Crouch both as creator and scorer.
Did Tottenham Let Rafael Van der Vaart Leave too Soon?
There had been rumours of Van der Vaart returning to Germany during the summer but as the season opened talk of such moves had gone quiet. Andre Villas-Boas, on taking over at Tottenham, had suggested that he would like to build his team around the Dutch player’s creative style and with the departure of Luka Modric imminent, such a move appeared sensible.
The manager and the player had both spoken of their desire to work together at Tottenham. Villas-Boas had said,
“With Van der Vaart, at the moment I am absolutely counting on him.”
While Van der Vaart also committed himself to Tottenham and being involved in getting the club into the top four in the Premier League, saying,
“My place is at Spurs, I want to win the title with this club. Each summer my name appears in the transfer market. The race for the top four will be a total war from the very first day.”
With his involvement for Holland at the Euro 2012 tournament, Van der Vaart returned late to preseason training and then suffered an early injury. He recovered and was ready for the start of the season but was on the bench for the opening match against Newcastle. Introduced for the last twenty minutes, he showed his creative capabilities as his passing opened up the home defence on a number of occasions. After Spurs drew level, unfortunately, Van der Vaart and Lennon didn’t defend effectively at a short corner, conceding the winning penalty. For the next match against West Bromwich, Van der Vaart started and for an hour it was his passing which provided the greatest creativity in the Tottenham side, helping Spurs to control and dominate the game. With just over an hour played, Van der Vaart was replaced and as he took the applause as he left the pitch, no-one realised that was to be the last of him in a Tottenham shirt. In his absence Spurs lost their dominance and by the following weekend’s home game against Norwich, he had been transferred to Hamburg.
Why So Suddenly?
With Luka Modric’s transfer to Real Madrid being completed, Villas-Boas wanted to sign Joao Moutinho from his former club, Porto, as his creative midfield player. Tottenham had spent much time negotiating for the player and by 30th August, thought they had the deal sealed. To secure the finance to complete the transfer, they allowed Van der Vaart to fly to Germany early on the Friday morning and complete his move to Hamburg.
At this point negotiations for Moutinho broke down due to the demands of the player and the selling club. Spurs tried to revive the deal with Porto but rushed through the deal for Clint Dempsey from Fulham as back-up. Last minute moves came too late and Tottenham had again fallen foul of selling an influential player before securing the signature of his replacement.
With Villas-Boas’ team currently struggling creatively, they could have made use of a player of the calibre of Rafael Van der Vaart who continues to prosper in the German League for Hamburg, both creatively and as a goal scorer, and for Holland at international level.