ENG - TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (2010–2012)
The best place to start the tale of Rafa’s time at White Hart Lane is to rewind to the hours leading to his decision to sign for the London club. It plays out like a thrilling behind-the-scenes exposé highlighting how an impulse decision can lead to massive things.
Harry Redknapp’s steal proved to be a masterstroke for Spurs as Rafa again hit the ground running for his new club, garnering him the English Premier League Footballer-of-the-Month award for October 2010. Interestingly, he remains only the fifth Dutchman to ever win this accolade. Rafa’s goal rate also starts improving and he actually ends his first season as Spurs’ top scorer. His hunger for goals and wins proves to be the driving force behind a resurgent Tottenham Hotspur team bursting with young talents including Gareth Bale, Luca Modric, Aaron Lennon, and Peter Crouch, and guided by a man who would prove to be one of Rafa’s favorite managers.
Rafa’s brilliant form inspires the London club to mount a serious challenge for the Premiership title. They start playing with verve and spirit. By the season’s end, Spurs force their back into Champions League contention.
In every football league, there are rivalries that refuse to ease up with time. Ajax vs. Feyernoord, Real vs. Barcelona, and Internazionale vs. Milan are prime examples. In England, the London derby between Spurs and Arsenal is the stuff of legend. And as fate would have it, Rafa featured in one such match that took place on November 20, 2010. It was a game at Emirates Stadium with The Gunners going into the match with a comfortable seven-point lead over Spurs. Apart from the desperate need to close the points gap on their old rival, there was also the looming statistic of Spurs not having won away to Arsenal for over 17 years. The one question one everyone’s lips was if van der Vaart would live up to his big-game reputation. But things started out disastrously for Spurs, with Arsenal taking an early 2-0 lead and the visitors struggling to get a grip on the game. The second half however played out from a different script altogether, with Rafa spearheading a textbook comeback, inspiring his team to a historic 2-3 win. It’s one of Tottenham’s most memorable victories at Arsenal’s stadium, and a moment that gave Rafa a permanent home in the hearts of Spurs fans.
In total Rafa played 77 games and scored 28 goals for Tottenham Hotspur. Just like with all other teams he played for, Mr. van der Vaart left an indelible mark on Tottenham Shotspur in the way only Rafa can.