One of the most popular players of the modern era, Rafa was back for our Champions League win against another of his former clubs, Real Madrid.
It was a special night. A 3-1 win booked our place in the knockout stage of the competition – something Rafa helped us achieve back in 2010-11 – and for the Dutchman, a reminder, if it was needed, just how much he’s loved here at Spurs as Wembley rose together to sing his name at half-time.
The response was the same on our Facebook live special 90 minutes before kick-off.
The man for the big occasion, Rafa was devastating in the team that reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2010-11. Particular highlights were the opening goal in the famous 3-1 win against Inter Milan at the Lane and his four goals in three north London derbies against Arsenal.
Rafa scored 15 goals in 35 appearances in the Premier League and Champions League in his first season at Spurs, 2010-11 – a campaign he still looks back on as his best – before 11 in 33 in the Premier League in 2011-12. He was on his way back to Hamburg, the club he starred for in the Bundesliga before joining Real Madrid in 2008.
We’ll look forward to Arsenal next week with Rafa’s thoughts on the derby, but for a taster, here’s what he said about being back at Spurs and pitchside at Wembley ahead of the Real Madrid clash.
“It’s special to be back,” he smiled. “I still get goosebumps. It (his time at Spurs) was something special, I can’t find the words.
“Just being able to play at White Hart Lane was a privilege and to play in a team with so many good players and reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League, it was a special journey.
“We had some great nights, some great games against Arsenal, great goals and especially the connection with the fans. I will never forget that.
“After so many years I come back but it still feels like I’m coming home.
“You come to the stadium, I still know a few people and they hug you like ‘you are family’ and all I can say is thanks for that.”