Spurs' Dutch bargain buy

Despite featuring in this year's World Cup final in South Africa, Rafael van der Vaart was not part of Real Madrid's plans. With the likes of Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Pedro Leon and Sergio Canales rolling through the doors at the Bernabeu, van der Vaart's departure to White Hart Lane was not too surprising. However, the same cannot be said of the Spanish club's decision to sell the Dutch international for a mere GBP8million. Over to Richard Aspland.

With Tottenham Hotspur reaching the UEFA Champions League group stages, manager Harry Redknapp looked to strengthen his squad before the summer transfer window closed. And what a last minute signing he made in Dutch midfielder Rafael van der Vaart.

Despite featuring in this year's World Cup final in South Africa, the former ‘European Talent of the Year' was not part of Real Madrid's plans. With the likes of Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Pedro Leon and Sergio Canales rolling through the doors at the Bernabeu, van der Vaart's departure to White Hart Lane was not too surprising.

However, the same cannot be said of the Spanish club's decision to sell the Dutch international for a mere GBP8million.

Born in Heemskirk in north Holland, van der Vaart began his football journey by pretending to be Brazilian star Romario as he played on the streets as a child. After playing with a local club, van der Vaart was picked up by the famous Ajax academy and enjoyed a rapid rise through to the first team.

The midfielder made his full debut for the club aged 17 and the following season he established himself in the Ajax setup, making 27 appearances and netting seven goals as well as securing his first senior international appearance as a second-half substitute against Andorra.

Van der Vaart ended the 2001-02 season with the Eredivisie title and domestic cup despite missing the last few weeks of the campaign with a knee injury — a trend that would continue throughout his career.

Van der Vaart's impressive performances saw him become one of the most recognisable faces in Holland, especially after he married actress Sylvie Meis. However, the couple's position in the media gaze seemingly became too much and in 2005 van der Vaart moved to Germany to ply his trade with Bundesliga outfit Hamburger SV.

Despite another injury-hit season, the Dutch ace helped Hamburg reach the Champions League, weighing in with nine goals, and was expected to play a major part in his country's campaign at the 2006 World Cup.

But again injury restricted his appearances at the finals, where the Netherlands lost a feisty last-16 clash to Portugal in a game that broke a World Cup record for most red cards. While many of Europe's top clubs circled the Imtech Arena after the tournament, van der Vaart stayed with Hamburg.

His loyalty, however was short lived, and in 2008 he plumped for a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid shortly after performing admirably during Euro 2008.

With Real Madrid's wealth of talent, van der Vaart found it hard to nail down a first-team place and was even told by coach Manuel Pellegrini in the summer of 2009 that he was not part of the team's plans. Dutch compatriots Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder left the Bernabeu after being told the same, although van der Vaart stayed to fight for his place. But after two seasons with Real, even more high-profile signings and a World Cup final appearance, van der Vaart decided it was time to look for regular first-team football.

And on transfer deadline day English Premier League club Tottenham came knocking. Despite rumours of a much higher bid by German club Bayern Munich, van der Der Vaart joined the London outfit and has impressed so far in the English top flight.

Now Redknapp will be hoping that van der Vaart can go onto emulate his fellow Dutch internationals' achievements since leaving the Madrid nest. Robben has since won the Bundesliga and made the Champions League final, while Sneijder has won the treble with Inter Milan.

Should van der Vaart manage to spur Tottenham to any such success, then GBP8million will seem like a very, very small price indeed.

He married Dutch actress Sylvie née Meis, who was named Holland's most attractive woman in 2003. The wedding took place in 2005 and the couple had a son in 2006 called Damian. Sylvie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 but is now fortunately in remission. Van der Vaart confesses to his favourite car being a BMW X6.

FACTFILE Name: Rafael Van der Vaart Position: Attacking midfielder Club: Tottenham Hotspur D.O.B: 11 / 02 / 1983 Netherlands Caps: 85 Netherlands Goals: 16 Netherlands Debut: v Andorra, October 2001

Moment to remember: Captaining Ajax to the Eredivisie title in May 2004.

Moment to forget: Van der Vaart was injured by then-Ajax team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic during an international match against Sweden in August 2004. Accusations that Ibrahimovic had intentionally tried to hurt van der Vaart led to the striker's sale to Juventus two weeks later.

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