By Chris Wright
As he continues to sashay ghostlike into the twilight of his professional career, Rafael van der Vaart has been in a reminiscent mood of late.
After enjoying something of a renaissance at Tottenham, the Dutchman’s prodigal return to Hamburg in the summer of 2012 didn’t quite pan out as he’d envisioned and it would appear that the 32-year-old still longs to recapture the giddy magic of his White Hart Lane days.
Reeling in the years in an interview with the Daily Mirror, Van der Vaart – who left the Bundesliga again to join Real Betis a month or so ago – admitted that he enjoyed the best two seasons of his career at Spurs and that he still regrets giving it all up as soon as he did.
“It was private things, but also when what’s his name [Andre Villas-Boas] came he said to me ‘you’re not my number one’ and I had played two years, like, unbelievable, so for me it was really strange that he said that to me. So then I said, well, it’s better to leave and that is what happened.
“It was a stupid decision, the most stupid in my career to leave Tottenham. I absolutely regret it because it was the best two years in my football life.
“When you see that team, when you have Bale, Modric, me, Lennon… it was an unbelievable team. I think every game we played we were the better side. We had a lot of possession and a lot of fun with each other.
“And Harry [Redknapp] — he was like your dad. I would give everything for that man; I was really sad when he left.”
Van der Vaart also revealed that he attempted to engineer a return to Spurs this summer such is his love for the club, but instead joined Betis when a triumphant return to North London failed to materialise for a variety of reasons.
“Because I didn’t have a contract, I almost tried to come back [to Spurs], then Betis came and I decided to come to Betis, but Tottenham was always special.”
“But if [Spurs] had wanted me, I would have gone. But Betis came and the decision was quite quick: Betis.”
So close, and yet so far.