Harry Redknapp has previous with Dutchmen and caravans, but then Rafael van der Vaart has somewhat better credentials than Marco Boogers, the unfortunate striker who belongs in English football folklore.
Tottenham unveiled Van der Vaart at their training ground yesterday; an £8m signing from Real Madrid and fresh from winning his 84th cap for the world's second-best side. Boogers managed to play all of 83 minutes for Redknapp's West Ham in 1995 before infamously retreating back home to his caravan and footballing anonymity. Van der Vaart, the son of a Dutch father and Spanish mother, spent his childhood in a caravan before learning his trade at Ajax and becoming one of Europe's most coveted playmakers.
But that is not the only reputation that has accompanied him to north London. After being taken off during the Netherlands' 2-1 win over Finland on Tuesday he had no qualms in attacking Bert van Marwijk, the Dutch coach, for his decision. He is not the first Dutch player to be known for strong opinions and his response yesterday when asked if he was a troublemaker was one of surprise. "No, no, no. I'm a nice guy," exclaimed the 27-year-old.
Van der Vaart lived in a caravan for the first 10 years of his life. He bought his parents their first house while he was at Ajax. "My father was born [in a caravan], it's my family's normal lifestyle," said Van der Vaart. "I always liked it. I played football in the street all the time – it was an easy life when you are 10 years old. It was really strange for us living in a normal house."
Van der Vaart will be in the Tottenham squad for tomorrow's game at West Bromwich Albion and he is relishing the chance to become the latest Dutch import to the Premier League. "It was a surprise but I'm happy," he said of the transfer from Madrid. "There was some interest from Germany but I preferred to go to England. It was an easy decision. Madrid was a difficult place to play. I was only there two years but had four different managers. It was difficult – you want to play so it was better to just leave. It is a good match, Dutch players playing in England."
He follows the likes of Dennis Bergkamp – "an idol" – Ruud van Nistelrooy and Robin van Persie, another current international team-mate, to the Premier League, and he could find himself playing against Van Persie's side in two weeks when Spurs meet Arsenal in the Carling Cup.
"I have already spoken with Robin – he said it is the greatest derby in the world," said Van der Vaart. "Arsenal have a great team but I think our squad is no worse. We can finish above them."
Van der Vaart wants to play in the hole behind a single or pair of strikers and Redknapp may well use him in that role away from home, especially in the Champions League. He will not though be playing behind Jermain Defoe for the next month and a half. "It's his ankle," said Redknapp, of the injury Defoe sustained on England duty. "He will be out for six weeks or so because it's a bad one."Reuse content