Van der Vaart set to face 'enemy' Webb

CHIGWELL - Tottenham Hotspur's new signing Rafael van der Vaart could come up against the man the Dutch love to hate on Saturday - referee Howard Webb.

He is ready to make his first start at West Bromwich Albion where Webb, who showed nine yellow cards to Netherlands players in their World Cup final defeat by Spain, will be in charge.

But Van der Vaart, who came off the bench in the final but was not among those booked, bears no grudges.

"I don't have a problem with him," he said. "He was a little bit unlucky in the final."

A visit to the Hawthorns will be an interesting introduction to the Premier League for the playmaker who is revelling in his new surroundings after a difficult spell at Real Madrid.

He joined Spurs just before the transfer window closed having spurned advances from several German clubs and Liverpool.

"I only had 10 minutes (to decide). I called my wife and said: 'We are going to London'. She was shocked," Van der Vaart told a news conference at Tottenham's training ground.

Asked about the differences with Real Madrid as he observed the journalists and camera crews packed into a crowded room, Van der Vaart, who has over 80 international caps, shrugged.

"Well the press room (at Real) was a little bit bigger," he said sparking a ripple of laughter among the reporters.

The Real Madrid City training complex at 1.2 million square metres is the largest sports facility ever built by a football club and can accommodate about 150 reporters.

But while Spurs may lag behind the European giants the club have big ideas, including plans for a new training ground and 56,000 seat stadium, with Van der Vaart buying into the future.

Champions League football was clearly a big attraction for the 27-year-old playmaker, with Tottenham embarking on their first European Cup campaign since 1962.


"The Champions League is the biggest stage. For the club and the players. It's a really good experience," added the skilful midfielder who will wear the No. 11 shirt.

"To play in the Premier League is also great and on Saturday I hope I can play my first minutes. It's the best league in the world. I always wanted to play in England."

Van der Vaart's last major trophy was the Dutch title with his first club Ajax Amsterdam in 2004 but he is confident of adding to his collection with a promising Tottenham side.

"We have a young team and I think we can win something with a little bit of luck given the kind of players we have.

Van der Vaart won two league trophies and the Dutch Super Cup at Ajax after joining as a youngster and he went on to make 141 appearances, scoring 60 goals, before joining Hamburg in 2005.

He was the German club's top scorer in his first season and became captain, playing 111 games before joining Real Madrid in 2008 where he struggled to hold down a first-team place.


Van der Vaart was not sorry to leave Madrid where he was out of favour after Florentino Perez returned as club president in place of Ramon Calderon who had brought in a Dutch contingent.

His Netherlands team mates Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder had departed and it was a surprise that Van der Vaart remained.

The arrival of Jose Mourinho at Real was followed by a batch of midfield signings and Van der Vaart, who grew up in a caravan near the North Sea, knew it was time to find pastures new.

"I always played football in the street," he said. "I was 10 years old when I went to Ajax then my life started to change when I played first-team football. I left (the caravan) and lived in a normal house. It was a different lifestyle.

"It was a little bit like a street fight, you always had to fight for your place. I thought about buying a big, flash caravan (when I started earning more)," he said with a smile.

Van der Vaart has come a long way from the caravan and is part of a celebrity couple with his wife Sylvie, a model and TV presenter, crowned 'Miss Bundesliga' when he was in Hamburg.

They are bound to attract a lot of media attention from England's tabloid newspapers but Van der Vaart believes they have made the right choice coming to London.

"My wife is famous, maybe more famous than I am, but we can handle that," said Van der Vaart. "We love being in England. it's a great country. (Anyway) I make the decisions."

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