Rafael van der Vaart says he was attempting to give Tottenham fans “a little bit of their pride back” whenever he played in a North London derby against Arsenal.
The Dutchman joined Spurs from Real Madrid in the summer of 2010, staying at White Hart Lane for two seasons before departing for his former club Hamburg in 2012.
From day one, Van der Vaart endeared himself to the Tottenham fans with a string of passionate performances.
His high-quality displays helped Harry Redknapp’s side reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League in the 2010-11 campaign.
But the attacking midfielder often saved his best performances for Arsenal, scoring a number of goals against the Gunners and playing in derbies like he had supported Spurs all his life.
Speaking to FourFourTwo, Van der Vaart tried to explain why he was so consistent against Tottenham’s fiercest rivals.
“I never had anything against Arsenal,” he said, “but when I joined Spurs I tried to learn about the club’s traditions and I soon found out about the magnitude of the match.
“I always try to immerse myself in the emotions of the fans, and in the derbies against Arsenal I tried to give Spurs fans a little bit of their pride back.”
Harry Kane has taken over as Arsenal’s tormenter-in-chief in recent years, but it was an absolute delight to see a foreign player with no real connection to the club instantly understand the meaning of the derby.
As a result, Van der Vaart is still admired by Tottenham supporters to this day.