Rafael van der Vaart still has a special place in the hearts of Tottenham fans.
Not only was the Dutchman a magnificent player with brilliant positioning and a terrific eye for goal, he bloody loved a strike against Arsenal. Like, way more than most.
So, in celebration of the cult hero’s birthday, here are nine of his greatest moments in a Spurs shirt.
First Goal Against Wolves – September 2010
For attacking midfielders and strikers, the longer you have to wait to score that first goal for a new club, the more anxious you become and the quicker the fans lose patience with you.
Thankfully for Van der Vaart, he scored in just his second Premier League game, a 3-1 win against Wolves, with a well taken penalty. His coolness from the spot quickly became a sight Tottenham fans would come to recognise during his stint at White Hart Lane.
Brace in 2-1 Aston Villa Win – October 2010
The former Netherlands international struck up an unlikely connection with Peter Crouch during his time in north London, and it was most evident during the 2-1 win against Villa in 2010.
He first got on the end of the former England striker’s nod across goal to head past Brad Friedel, before a delicious faint fooled Irish legend Richard Dunne, allowing him to slam in from just yards out for his second.
Starting the Inter Thrashing – November 2010
While this game is mainly known for Gareth Bale ruining Maicon’s reputation as the world’s best full back at the time, it was Van der Vaart who got the ball rolling.
He pulled off the back of Inter’s defence and latched on to Luka Modric’s through ball after the Croatian’s slaloming run, firing past Julio Cesar at the goalkeeper’s near post.
Double Rescues Draw in North London Derby – April 2011
As previously mentioned, Van der Vaart could just not hold back the emotion whenever he bagged against Arsenal. He played a pivotal role in earning Spurs a 3-2 win at the Emirates earlier in the 2010/11 season and scored twice against the Gunners in April.
His first demonstrated his immaculate close control and strength, holding off Abou Diaby to fire past Wojciech Szczesny, before his penalty ensured the points were shared as Tottenham came from 3-1 down to draw 3-3.
Wonderstrike at Anfield – May 2011
What? You’ve never seen this goal? Oh, you need to find it. Hit up YouTube and get that strike on repeat.
A corner is cleared to the former Real Madrid man, he chests it down and strikes with the ultimate amount of zest and swerve. Ol’ Pepe Reina tries his damnedest to get across, but the ball evades the Spaniard and nestles nicely in the back of the net.
Final NLD Goal – October 2011
Rafa’s final north London derby strike came in October 2011 and pretty much summed up everything great about the attacking midfielder.
He chested down Emmanuel Adebayor’s lobbed pass before striking across Szczesny into the far corner and celebrating in front of the jubilant home supporters. Spurs would go on to win 2-1, thanks to Kyle Walker’s screamer.
Curling Beauty Against Blackburn – October 2011
Three weeks after his heroics against Arsenal, Van der Vaart was again Tottenham’s talisman in a slender 2-1 victory at Blackburn. He tapped in neatly for his first, but his second strike was pure magic.
After the ball rebounded off Benoit Assou-Ekotto and into his path, Van der Vaart whipped a sublime curling effort past the despairing Paul Robinson and into the top corner.
Late Equaliser in 1-1 Stoke Draw – March 2012
A major reason for Tottenham’s failure to qualify for the Champions League in the 2011/12 season was their high total of games drawn. Dropping points against teams like Wolves, Swansea and Newcastle is never going to work in the favour of a team chasing a top four finish.
Tottenham nearly fell to a shock defeat against Stoke at home that season after Cameron Jerome poked the visitors ahead, but Van der Vaart latched on to Gareth Bale’s cross, beating Robert Huth to the ball and nodding in for a 92nd minute equaliser.
Final Goal in 4-1 Bolton Win – May 2012
Van der Vaart was sadly sold by new manager Andre Villas-Boas at the start of the 2012/13 season but his last goal was one to savour.
After great work from Bale down the left, VDV positioned himself brilliantly for the cross before side-footing into the far right corner past Adam Bogan.
His stint with Tottenham may have only lasted a tad over two seasons, but Van der Vaart will always be remembered as a player who helped establish Spurs as a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League.