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The Big Interview - Rafa van der Vaart

Posted on 18 July 2016  - 17:45

Rafa van der Vaart likes nothing more than to wax lyrical over his 'special days, at Spurs - and that's why a chat about our new Dutch striker Vincent Janssen quickly turned to those glory, glory nights of the Champions League in 2010-11, the best year of his career...

Rafa on target against VillaCelebrating the opener against Inter MilanRafa fires home at AnfieldCelebrating at Blackburn

The legendary Dutch striker was very much on the world stage when he joined us from Real Madrid on transfer deadline day in the summer of 2010. Six weeks earlier, he'd appeared in the World Cup Final for Holland against Spain in South Africa.

Rafa made an instant impact in N17, scoring on his home debut against Wolves and then in our opening home match of the Champions League against FC Twente.

Throw in another goal as we came from 2-0 down to beat Arsenal 3-2 at the Emirates and the opener in the famous 3-1 win against Inter Milan and Rafa was well on the way to cult status with the Spurs faithful.

He finished his first season with 15 goals in 35 appearances in the Premier League and Champions League - a season he still looks back on as his best - before 11 in 33 in the Premier League in 2011-12, and then he was on his way back to Hamburg, gthe club he starred for in the Bundesliga before joining Real Madrid in 2008.

Before we talk about Vincent, Rafa, tell us about your days at Spurs...
Rafa:
"You know, I was lucky because it was, in my opinion, maybe the best team I played with - Ledley, Luka, Scotty Parker, Adebayor, Defoe, Bale. We had an unbelievable squad and times I will never forget. I miss Tottenham every minute. Tottenham is still in my heart."

Below: Rafa celebrates after scoring the opener against Inter Milan

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What about those nights in the Champions League?
Rafa: "I’m 33 now and I’ve still time yet but I always tell everyone about those two years I played at Tottenham. The nights we played in the Champions League, wow, they were something special. It was the way we played. We were in the Champions League for the first time but it wasn’t about waiting or seeing what happened, it was attack, attack, attack. We beat Inter Milan at home, they were the holders, FC Twente, Werder Bremen, we were flying. We beat AC Milan and then of course it was such a pity as we got a red card after 20 minutes in the Bernabeu (quarter-final, first leg) otherwise, perhaps we might have had a chance. We finished fifth in the end in the Premier League as well. For me, that was my best year."

What was it about Spurs that clicked with you?
Rafa: "It was also about the people at the club. It’s already four years since I left but I can talk to people and it’s still the same. When I come back to the Lane, people are still happy to meet me."

How much did you enjoy the derbies against Arsenal?
Rafa: "When I came to Tottenham and the first thing everyone said was ‘we have to win against Arsenal’. Everyone explained the history and I thought ‘okay, we will see’ but when you play and the you win away, 2-0 down to win 3-2, then the 3-3 at home, it was just meant to be that I scored in these games. I loved them, unbelievable. They were great days at Tottenham."

Below: Rafa on target against Arsenal

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Vincent Janssen is our latest Dutch recruit. As a striker with over 100 caps for Holland, what can you tell us about him?
Rafa: "He came from the second tier in Holland to AZ Alkmaar, played one year in the Eredivisie with AZ and he did really well. He also did well in the national team. In my opinion, Tottenham have signed a great striker. He’s still young and still learning of course but he’s really strong and scored a lot of goals in Holland. I think Tottenham is the right move for him. I think it’s great for Tottenham and great for him."

What are Vincent's strengths?
Rafa: "He’s a real striker, loves to play and work for the team and he doesn’t just score goals, he makes goals as well. If you work hard at Tottenham and in the Premier League, people will love you and if you score goals, you will be a legend. I hope he will do both."