Rafael van der Vaart on His Favourite Spurs Moments & Why Scoring Against Arsenal Was Special

James Cormack
Rafael van der Vaart cemented himself as a Spurs legend despite enjoying just a two-year stint in N17
Rafael van der Vaart cemented himself as a Spurs legend despite enjoying just a two-year stint in N17 / Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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Exclusive - Former Tottenham midfielder Rafael van der Vaart has revealed his favourite moments in a Spurs shirt and how he cemented himself as a modern-day Lilywhite legend due to his impressive record against bitter rivals Arsenal.

The Dutchman joined Spurs from Real Madrid on deadline day in the summer of 2010, signing for a mere £9.5m. He'd go on to enjoy two fruitful seasons in N17 - registering 46 goal contributions in 77 appearances - before the exit of Harry Redknapp and the arrival of Andre Villas-Boas at the end of the 2011/12 campaign saw him depart to his former club, Hamburg.

Van der Vaart spent two seasons at Real Madrid before joining Tottenham in the summer of 2010
Van der Vaart spent two seasons at Real Madrid before joining Tottenham in the summer of 2010 / AFP/Getty Images

Nevertheless, despite his relatively short stay in north London, the impact he had was profound and he established a brilliant rapport with the Lilywhite faithful. So much so, that his chant - set to the tune of KC & The Sunshine Band’s ‘Give It Up’ - can often be heard around the shiny new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to this day (when fans attend matches, of course).

"It's a nice song, by the way. It's a good one. You know it's really special because I just played there for two years and, of course, I played well - especially against Arsenal - so you know how it works," the 37-year-old told 90min.

"Always when I come back it feels like home. For me, it was maybe one of the best steps in my career."

The stylish attacking midfielder had the knack of pulling off the extraordinary during his stint in north London, and when asked to list some of his favourite memories in a Spurs shirt, two sprung to mind.

The Dutchman built a special bond with the White Hart Lane faithful during his two-year stay
The Dutchman built a special bond with the White Hart Lane faithful during his two-year stay / Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

"Arsenal the away game [2010/11] that we were losing 2-0 at half-time and won 3-2 - [I got] two assists, one goal, by the way - and then we played one home game and it ended up a draw, 3-3.

"I scored two times, and the third moment was when I played the ball between the legs of Jack Wilshere twice. That game was maybe one of the best games that I played in my career.

"I had a great night but we needed a win and it ended up 3-3, and that's also what I think that the fans - Spurs fans - liked to see. Of course, they want to win but they want to see special football," he added.

The Dutchman scored 13 times in his debut Premier League season as Spurs finished outside the top four, but enjoyed a scintillating Champions League run. The following campaign saw them emerge as genuine title-contenders before fading in the second half of the season.

Van der Vaart, meanwhile, was a key spoke in arguably the finest Tottenham side of the Premier League era before Mauricio Pochettino arrived in 2015.

Spurs' 2011/12 side were a brilliant watch as they finished fourth in the table
Spurs' 2011/12 side were a brilliant watch as they finished fourth in the table / Ian Walton/Getty Images

"You know when we had Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon, Defoe, Peter Crouch, Pavlyuchenko, Ledley King, Kaboul, Walker. It was a Champions League team and when you see all the names, where they are now, you think 'wow', it was a miracle that we didn't win the league."

But for 'Rafa', it was his ability to shine in the north London Derby which saw him emerge as a modern-day great at White Hart Lane.

"I think that's important as to why the fans loved me because my biggest advice to every player is when you go to a club, for them, Tottenham, is the biggest club in the world.

"As a player, you have other dreams but that's what I learnt during my career: for the fans, everywhere I played, that was the biggest club in the world and if you fight for that, they will love you.

"When I went to Spurs, I didn't know much about them, but when I came there I met Alan Dickson - who was the team manager of Tottenham - and he said: 'Rafa, I don't care if you f*ck up every game, there's only one game [that matters]'."

Van der Vaart scored five times and notched a further two assists in just four games against the Gunners, with Spurs' 3-2 victory over their local rivals at the Emirates in November 2010 - their first victory at Arsenal in 17 years - being his fondest memory of his time at the club.

"I had a really bad night, I was a little bit nervous. Normally I wasn't that nervous but that game, yeah, it's important and it's different.

Van der Vaart equalised from the spot in Spurs' eventual 3-2 triumph over Arsenal in November 2010
Van der Vaart equalised from the spot in Spurs' eventual 3-2 triumph over Arsenal in November 2010 / Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

After a woeful first-half which saw them fall two goals behind, Van der Vaart said that Redknapp did nothing at the half-time break, other than bringing on Jermaine Defoe in place of Aaron Lennon.

"When we came back on the pitch and it was a totally different game from minute one and we felt there was something special," he added, as goals from Bale, himself and Younes Kaboul saw Spurs overturn the deficit to win 3-2.


Rafael van der Vaart is part of KIA's #TheDreamPass campaign - an online football class hosted by legendary former professionals encouraging young players in their respective cities to donate their boots and take part in a skills challenge.

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