Tottenham are experts at handling pressure, says Champions League veteran
RAFAEL van der Vaart believes that Tottenham’s experience of handling the constant pressure of the Premier League has been a key factor in their Champions League success.
The Holland international is a seasoned campaigner in Europe’s biggest domestic competition, having played on the continent with Ajax, Hamburg and Real Madrid.
By contrast, the majority of the Spurs squad are enjoying their debuts in the tournament this season.
But Van der Vaart feels that the constant demand to perform and pick up results in the world’s biggest league has given the Lilywhites all the experience they need.
“In Europe, I always try to help the team on the pitch because I have experience in the Champions League,” he said. “But these players have been in the Premier League, the biggest league in the world, with the biggest games and a lot of pressure. So we are used to playing with pressure.
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“Pressure is nice, we need that, and I felt when we played away against AC Milan at the San Siro, the team did a fantastic job. I have a good feeling about it all, and a lot of confidence.”
Van der Vaart, who made an �8million move from Real Madrid to Spurs in the summer, played in the World Cup final in July, but has never been beyond the quarter-finals in the Champions League.
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The 28-year-old will get another chance as Tottenham await tomorrow’s draw for the last eight in Nyon, Switzerland.
And, having made his 25th Spurs appearance in the second leg of the last-16 tie against AC Milan, and scored 12 goals for the Lilywhites, the Dutchman admits that he has fallen in love with his new club.
“It’s gone so well, I feel really at home,” he said. “In my first days it felt like it was a family. It’s a great team. I like to be here in England, the people are really open, my team-mates love to play with me that’s why I’ve played so well.
“But it’s still half-time, the big games are coming. The only thing is that I have to stay fit.
“It’s great here because I’m used to attacking. In Holland, with the national team, we always play to score goals and our manager here [Harry Redknapp] is the same. He wants football, he wants goals, he wants to give the people in the stadium a special match, and that’s how I feel.”