Spurs supremo Harry Redknapp had admitted that he was unlikely to add to his squad before the summer window slammed shut at 6pm BST on September 1.
But minutes before the deadline, reports emerged that Spurs had made a last-gasp attempt to sign Dutch international Van der Vaart after his asking price reportedly dropped from £18 million to £8 million.
After an anxious wait - in excess of 18 hours - as the Premier League determined whether the deal had been done in time, Spurs announced the signing of the former Ajax starlet on Wednesday afternoon.
And the 27-year-old told Sky Sports that he had been taken aback by the speed of the last-gasp transfer.
"It happened so fast," he said.
"They got in touch with me for the first time only a couple of hours before the deadline. Then it all happened in no time. I was happy, both clubs were happy, so now it's all good."
Van der Vaart was expected to again struggle for first team opportunities in Madrid this season following the arrivals of Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Pedro Leon, Sergio Canales and Angel di Maria.
He faced a similar challenge last summer after the Madridistas brought in Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo and Xabi Alonso, with former boss Manuel Pellegrini not even handing Van der Vaart a squad number ahead of the 2009/10 campaign.
The Dutchman, therefore, is glad to have joined a club where he his services will be needed as Spurs prepare for their debut appearance in the Champions League group stages, where they will face Inter Milan, Werder Bremen and FC Twente.
"I was fighting for something that was lost, although I didn't feel like I lost," he said.
"I played 58 games, scored about 12 or 13 goals and got a lot of playing time last season. But at a certain moment, you're done with fighting. You have to feel appreciated and respected.
"The relations with the fans were great but with the club, well not so much.
"I'm heading for a new challenge and I'm looking forward to that. I'm excited, the English competition is wonderful. I played in Germany, the Netherlands and Spain and now I get to play in the UK, it doesn't get any better than that."
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