Louis van Gaal, the Netherlands national team manager, would be a fantastic appointment at Tottenham Hotspur, according to the former Spurs forward Rafael van der Vaart.
Van Gaal has been linked with the managerial position at the English Premier League club since they dismissed Andre Villas-Boas in December, although Tottenham opted instead to promote Tim Sherwood from his role as technical coordinator. Sherwood’s 18-month contract runs until the end of next season.
Van Gaal had been sounded out by Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman, previous to Sherwood’s selection, and the Dutchman, a former coach of Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, this week reiterated his desire to manage in England’s top flight.
Van Gaal, 62, has been the Netherlands manager since July 2012 and helped his country comfortably negotiate qualification for this summer’s World Cup. The Netherlands were Europe’s joint-top points scorers, with nine victories and a draw from 10 Group D matches.
Key to their progression was Van der Vaart, the midfielder who plays domestically for Hamburg and who, at times, captained his country in qualification.
Van der Vaart moved to the German Bundesliga club from Tottenham in August 2012 after two years in London, where he became a fan favourite. Therefore, he is well-placed to comment on Van Gaal’s suitability to the north London side.
“He would be great at Tottenham, and not just for him but for Tottenham as well,” Van der Vaart told The National on a recent training camp in Abu Dhabi. “He’s a great manager. He knows how to win big games and how to talk to a team.
“It’s something special when every training session is 100 per cent, and he knows so much about football. You see it in his meetings and how he talks to his players.”
Van der Vaart knows Sherwood, as well, and said Tottenham made the right decision in installing him as coach. The Englishman has helped restore confidence in a squad that had suffered heavy defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool. Since Sherwood took charge, Tottenham have won seven league matches from 10. Their one defeat was a 5-1 home reverse to City.
Van der Vaart is not surprised Tottenham continue to push for a Uefa Champions League place – currently, they are fifth in the Premier League standings – but he said their early inconsistency did not shock, either, especially after a summer of heavy investment when the club recruited seven new players.
“Tottenham are always one of the best football-playing teams in Europe, but they bought too many players,” Van der Vaart said. “It’s important also for the fans that they keep the players who were already there for many years, so when the people come to the stadium they have a feeling with the players. That’s the most important thing.
“In the coming years, there’s a good chance for them to lift the Premier League.”
Van der Vaart accepts Tottenham’s chances would have been better had they retained Gareth Bale, the Premier League’s standout player in 2012/13, who last summer transferred to Real Madrid for a rumoured €100 million (Dh503m).
“He’s a great player, who scored many goals last season, and he’s a big loss, for sure,” Van der Vaart said. “He’s got a good mentality, a good guy, quiet; there’s no arrogance or anything.
“To be fair, he was a good player then, but I didn’t expect Real Madrid to pay €100 million for him. Now he has to prove it.”
Having proved an integral component in Tottenham’s only foray into the Champions League, Van der Vaart remembers fondly his two seasons at White Hart Lane. He had been expected to remain with the club past 2012, but he chose to return to Hamburg towards the end of that summer’s transfer window.
“I really loved it” at Tottenham, he said. “I still miss it sometimes: the great people there, the stadium, the fans, it’s something special. But I wanted to go back to Hamburg and the chance came and I took it. I’m also happy here, but I do miss Spurs sometimes.”
Follow us on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE