The playmaker found himself surplus to requirements at Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid following the arrival of Werder Bremen’s Mesut Ozil, with Bayern Munich reportedly pulling out of a deal for the Dutchman a day before the transfer window closed.
Van der Vaart was prepared to stay at the Santiago Bernabeu and fight for his place, but when Spurs had an £8 million offer for the midfielder accepted only a few hours ahead of the deadline, he had a quick decision to make. Or at least he should have…
Speaking exclusively in the April 2018 issue of FourFourTwo magazine, the 35-year-old explains: “It was very last minute. Jose Mourinho had been honest about my chances, telling me they had bought Mesut Ozil to play in my position.
“He said I could stay, but that I wasn’t in his starting XI. At that point I was still keen to stay at Real Madrid for another season, so I headed to a training camp with the Dutch national team.
“But at around 4pm on deadline day, my lawyer called me to say that Tottenham were interested in signing me. I asked him if I could think about it. He replied that I had to decide within two hours. I started to evaluate everything, then took a little nap...
“Suddenly I was jolted awake by the phone going off. It was about 5.40pm and my lawyer was on the phone again, telling me that I had to decide there and then.
“I thought for a split second, then said, 'Yeah, let’s do it'. I had no time to overthink it or discuss it with anybody – it was pure intuition. Very soon I realised how happy I was with the decision. From the first moment I arrived at Spurs Lodge, I felt at home.”
Van der Vaart, who now plays for Midtjylland in Denmark following a short stint at Real Betis, made 77 outings for Spurs and top-scored for them in 2010/11 – the season in which they beat holders Inter Milan en route to the Champions League quarter-finals.
He speaks warmly of the man who brought him to White Hart Lane, explaining that Harry Redknapp’s old-school managerial style suited his game very well at the time.
“He was a magical guy – a father figure – but Harry could also be rock-hard,” reveals Van der Vaart. “During a team talk, he would pull out a little piece of paper on which he had written down the starting line-up and then say things to us like, 'Just give the ball to Luka [Modric], then Luka can try to find Rafa, and you will win the game'.
“Then, if we'd played a really good first half, he would openly praise you, saying things like, 'F**king hell, Rafa, what a player!' He gave you a boost – you would run faster for someone like him. Harry Redknapp’s style suited my own very well.”
Read the full One-on-One interview with Rafael van der Vaart in the April 2018 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. A best young players special, we speak exclusively to Kylian Mbappe, Ryan Sessegnon, Richarlison, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Justin Kluivert, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Harry Winks and Timo Werner, and meet the people who shaped Marcus Rashford’s flourishing career. Plus, we experience the ‘Israel-Palestine Derby’ between Beitar Jerusalem and Bnei Sakhnin, after Donald Trump poured oil on the flames of an already-heated affair. Order a copy today, and then become a subscriber!
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