Rafael van der Vaart happy to continue travels by joining Tottenham Hotspur
He had only 10 minutes to make a decision. It is no exaggeration to say that those were 10 minutes that changed Van der Vaart's life. 'I called my wife and said we were going to London,' he said. 'She was a little bit shocked. But in the end, she was happy and I was also happy. For me it was an easy decision. It was done in one or two hours.' Related ArticlesJermain Defoe out for six weeksKing: Spurs can compete on both frontsJermain Defoe set for six-week lay-offWebb ready for Premier League returnRedknapp relief at Dawson scanDawson ruled out for two Euro qualifiersIn an instant, the Dutchman was cancelling the milk and getting on a plane. On Thursday he trained with his new team-mates for the first time, and he may make his debut on the trip to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. But then, perhaps it is hardly surprising that Van der Vaart should be such a ready traveller. The travelling community is, after all, where he grew up. The 27 year-old was raised in a caravan park in northern Holland, learning to play on the streets, using empty beer bottles as goalposts. 'Maybe it is not a normal lifestyle, but I liked it,' he said. 'When I was playing in the first team for Ajax I bought a house for my parents. It was the first time they lived in a house, so it was strange.' Tottenham fans cooing over their £8 million signing, secured in the dying minutes of the summer transfer window, will reckon they have on their hands an elegant, cultured player, an exquisite passer of the ball, an exceptional reader of the game. They would be right on all counts, but Van der Vaart's upbringing turned him into, as he puts it, 'a street fighter'. The sniggers and sneering looks he would have attracted when he first took up the game lent him a flint-edged determination and turned him into a fierce competitor. Which is why he was never satisfied with his bit-part role at the Bernabéu. A mere superstar in a team of megastars, Van der Vaart found his options limited at Madrid, and leapt at the opportunity to play for an English club who were also able to offer him Champions League football. 'I was only there for two years, but I had four different managers,' he said. 'It's a great club, but at the end of the day you want to play and it was difficult to play every game.' Still, it remains to be seen where he fits into Harry Redknapp's plans. His preferred position is just behind a lone striker, and he may get his chance there after the ankle injury Jermain Defoe suffered on England duty. Playing in the hole for a north London team would give Van der Vaart the chance to emulate one of his heroes, Dennis Bergkamp. 'I played against him once,' he said. 'He was a real number 10 midfield, striker, in between. He is like an idol for me. I think it's a good match, Dutch players playing in England.' Bergkamp helped Arsenal to the league title, a feat Van der Vaart insisted is also possible at Tottenham. 'I think we can, with a bit of luck,' he said. 'I want to help the team win titles. Arsenal have a great team also, but our squad is not worse than theirs. 'We have a good chance not only to win the game against them, but also aspire to beat them over the whole season.' At least there will be one familiar face for Van der Vaart should he feature tomorrow. Howard Webb will referee his first game since the World Cup final, a match in which he showed cards to eight of Van der Vaart's team-mates.
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