Born: 11 February 1983 (Heemskerk, Netherlands)
Join Date: 31 August 2010
Appearances: 77. Goals: 28.
He may have only been with us for two seasons, but Rafael van der Vaart certainly made an impression.
What endeared ‘Rafa’ to fans was his desire, passion and ability on the ball, not to mention his eye for goal against north London rivals Arsenal! Rafa just got it. Ledley King said it felt like he was made to play for Spurs – Rafa’s only regret was leaving us too soon.
Beginning his career in his native Netherlands, the attacking midfielder learned his trade with Ajax, making his debut at 17, lifting two Eredivisie titles, voted inaugural ‘Golden Boy’ in 2003 and captaining the side before moving to Hamburg in 2005.
Three seasons on the Elbe followed before a brief stint at Real Madrid, where in 2008, the Dutch international was nominated for the Ballon d’Or. But in the summer of 2010, having suffered World Cup heartbreak following a defeat to Spain in the final in South Africa, he became a Spur.
Signing on deadline day, Rafa scored on his home debut against Wolves and was named Player of the Month in the Premier League in October, 2011. He finished his first season with 15 goals - eight created by Peter Crouch - and lit up the Lane with performances against the Gunners and in the Champions League.
Indeed, in just four games against Arsenal, he had as many goals, including a goal and two assists at the Emirates in November, 2010, as we came from 2-0 down to win 3-2. That was quite a month for the Dutchman - he also opened the scoring in the memorable 3-1 win against Champions League holders Inter at the Lane.
Rafa scored another 13 goals in 2011/12 before returning to Hamburg in 2012. Spells followed at Real Betis, FC Midtjylland and Esbjerg fB, where he announced his retirement in 2018. He was back at the new stadium in March, 2019 and received one of the biggest cheers as our Legends took on Inter Forever.