Greatest Spurs Players: Rafael Van Der Vaart
At some point in this series, we’ll take a much longer look back at some of the legends of White Hart Lane. The likes of Jimmy Greaves and Danny Blanchflower will be covered in due course but for now, we’re going to keep it fairly current.
Fans’ Favourites aren’t always the best players on the pitch but that wasn’t the case with Rafael Van Der Vaart. It may be fair to say that his achievements in a Lilywhite shirt aren’t those that could be associated with a ‘legend’ but we think he deserves his place in the Hall of Fame.
The so-called Special Relationship with Real Madrid hasn’t done us too many favours in the past but it did bring us Rafael Van Der Vaart. The Dutch international came to White Hart Lane on the final day of the August transfer window for a fee stated to be £8 million.
The circumstances of the deal were the subject of some conjecture following reports that a bid of £18 million from Bayern Munich had fallen through. Real denied that story but that fee of £8 million seems particularly cheap, even by 2010 standards.
It seemed like a decent coup at the time and VDV quickly started to prove that this was the case. An attacking midfielder, his scoring contributions began almost immediately and after four Premier League games, Rafa had found the net on three occasions. The player had also scored and made an assist in his first two Champions League games for the club and was clearly starting to repay that relatively modest fee.
Van Der Vaart would go on to play a big role in the Champions League campaign that saw the club go into the quarter finals and, while we didn’t quite make top four on a consistent basis, the Dutchman was making his mark in the EPL at the same time. At the end of that 2010/11 campaign, VDV had scored 15 goals in 36 matches across all competitions.
The 2011/12 season was to be marginally less prolific but Rafa made a notable achievement when he scored in five consecutive Premier League matches. He ended that campaign with a respectable 13 goals in 39 games.
Hello and Goodbye
It was to prove to be a brief stay in North London for the popular Dutchman. After just two games of the 2012/13 season, Rafael Van Der Vaart was moved on to former club Hamburg. He was approaching 30 and never the most mobile of players so this might have been seen as a good bit of business but it did rob the club of a real hero and his departure was largely met with disappointment by the White Hart Lane faithful.
Given those bare statistics, there may be questions as to why Van Der Vaart has been included in a list of great players. He came with a reputation and the transfer from Real Madrid was largely welcomed but there was some trepidation attached.
Dutch players had, by and large, struggled in the Premier League and while we were all excited about the previous arrival of Edgar Davids, that particular deal hadn’t gone well. This was to be different and it’s worth remembering that this came at the time when the club started to turn around.
From the days of languishing outside of the European Places, there was a tangible challenge for the Champions League slots each year and the seeds of today’s side are seen in those squads from ten years ago and upwards. Off the pitch, it started with Martin Jol and it was continued through the likes of Gareth Bale and Van Der Vaart on the field.
Rafa also had a happy knack of scoring against Arsenal and his penalty in the 3-2 comeback win is one that continues to be shown many years after the event. He also warmed to the club in a way that Edgar Davids never had and we, in turn, warm to him. If you tune in to his Twitter account, VDV is very passionate about his former clubs – in particular Ajax and Spurs.
He flickered very briefly but he won’t be forgotten and we feel that Rafael van der Vaart fully deserves his place on our list.