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Van der Vaart never expected Bale to play for Madrid

Rafael van der Vaart says he never expected Real Madrid to sign Gareth Bale and has described Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho as "suffocating".

Attacking midfielder Van der Vaart played with Madrid forward Bale during his time at Tottenham. The Dutchman left White Hart Lane for Hamburg in 2012, with Bale moving to the Santiago Bernabeu for a world-record transfer fee in September 2013.

Bale has enjoyed success with Madrid, winning the Champions League, Copa del Rey, FIFA Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup with the club.

However, Bale was criticised for his performances last season and has been limited to just seven appearances so far this campaign due to injuries.

And, in an interview with Canal Plus, Van der Vaart said: "I never thought Bale would end up playing at Madrid. Bale isn't like [Cristiano] Ronaldo or [Lionel] Messi; that's another level."

Asked about his move from Madrid to Tottenham, which came three months after Mourinho's appointment as coach, Van der Vaart added: "Mourinho is a very good coach; he's suffocating, but he knows what he wants.

"He told me they were going to sign [Mesut] Ozil and that it was best that I left for another team in England or wherever."

The 32-year-old rose through the ranks at Ajax, where he was a team-mate of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who left Dutch club for Juventus in 2004 shortly after Van der Vaart had allegedly accused the Swede of injuring him intentionally in a friendly between Sweden and Netherlands in 2004.

On his relationship with the Paris Saint-Germain striker, Van der Vaart said: "He's a very cocky guy, like me, and there are times when somebody says something to you that you don't like and you get into a fight.

"We sometimes had problems although when we played together we did well."