He scores goals, he creates goals, he’s classy and he’s got a wife that makes you feel genuinely proud to be a Spurs supporter. So when rumors start swirling around that he may well be off back to his old stamping ground of the Bundesliga, several Spurs fans were aghast. But you need to look past the neat little one-twos and feverish Dutch fist pumping. If Schalke offer £12million for Rafael van der Vaart, Spurs should take a deep breath and take the money.
A touch of Dutch has never really graced White Hart Lane enough in recent times. Willem Korsten wasn’t quite Marco van Basten and Edgar Davids did well, even if his glory years were probably behind him. But whatever it is that Dutch players are supposed to have, Van der Vaart has it. The Velcro touch, the touch of class, the innate ability to score for fun against your clubs most hated rivals. These are attributes you don’t quite see every day and make no mistake about it; he is a hugely popular figure at White Hart Lane.
His figures stand up with the best also. In his two Premier League seasons with the club, the Dutchman has scored 24 and set up 15. Playing behind the larger frontman up front has paid big dividends for him. Where as 2010-11 it was Peter Crouch who was knocking it down and teeing it up for him, this year it’s been Emmanuel Adebayor who has been dovetailing with Van der Vaart. The two were hardly quite Shearer and Sutton, but they both got goals and performed well with each other. When push comes to shove, the Jermain Defoe loving armada must understand why he isn’t first choice.
Again, for the style that Redknapp has had Spurs playing, Rafael van der Vaart has been perfect. Neat little passes around the area, probing and searching for the opening. A conventional forward couldn’t offer the collaborative play and vision that the Spurs number 11 does. He is an important cog in the Tottenham Hotspur wheel. But maybe that in itself, is where some of the problems lie.
For the faults of Harry Redknapp and this Tottenham team, some of the base problems, such as actually scoring enough goals and killing teams off, are often overlooked. This article simply doesn’t have enough time to log all the separate occasions where Spurs have dominated teams and possession, but come out short of three points. Everton away, QPR away, Wolves at home and the now infamous Villa away date, are a small selection of some of the worst offending fixtures. Of course, there are a multitude of reasons why Spurs didn’t finish fourth. But for all the possession and the flashy football seen this past season, it has often been style over substance. Rafael van der Vaart isn’t without quite without substance, but he represents a motif of some of Spurs issues.
And it’s not the smaller doubts that shroud Van der Vaart either. He has worked a lot harder for the team this year, but there are still doubts about his over his ability to play a 38-game season. A troublesome hamstring seems to of cropped up several times during his two-year spell and whilst Redknapp has taken it too far subbing the Dutchman after 70-odd minutes, often he has indeed tailed off towards the climax of games. But that’s not the main problem. In fact, even his fabricated set-piece ability, which still doesn’t seem to have been debunked after two years of hitting the wall or the first man at a corner, isn’t the main problem.
With Rafael van der Vaart in the team, Tottenham can only play one way. You can sit down with a pen and paper or spend hours making up imaginary tactics on Football Manager, but he cannot play anywhere else than behind the striker. He can’t seriously play on the right-wing for anything else other than a stop-gap measure and the theory that he could play deeper in midfield has serious flaws too. His natural instinct to go forward, his lack of mobility and sometimes-questionable work-rate (anyone remember his tracking back for Aaron Ramsey’s goal at White Hart Lane?) would render him far too risky to play there.
Yes Redknapp has never developed a Plan B for changing games. But that has only become so prominent, because Plan A has proven ineffective so many times. Spurs fans have rightly oozed such frustration at Redknapp for failing to change the game, but it’s the point the game has needed to be changed so much which is just as frustrating. And the main way, in which Spurs’ game can be altered, is by taking Van der Vaart off the field.
It’s completely unfair to pin all of Tottenham’s impotence on Rafael van der Vaart. There are several reasons, both player and manager based, which have contributed to it. But sometimes teams need a tinker, a change; a slightly fresh approach. But if Redknapp or a new manager decides to change a team for the better, it might be at the expense of Van der Vaart. The best players do not always make the best team and if Spurs need to find a different way of playing, that process can’t revolve around desperately trying to fit Van der Vaart in it- as it will only paint a similar picture.
Rafael van der Vaart is a fantastic footballer and the squad is always going to be a better place having him in it. But if he’s really craving a move to Germany, where his wife Sylvie spends a lot of her time working and Spurs are offered the reported £12million, maybe it could be best for both parties to say yes.
Can’t imagine White Hart Lane without a classic verse of Van der Vaart? Or do you think that it wouldn’t be game over for the Lilywhite’s if the Dutchman moves on? Get involved in the Spurs talk, follow me on Twitter: @samuel_antrobus