Rafael van der Vaart has given Tottenham Hotspur fans the news they have been waiting to hear, by vowing to stay at the club next season despite missing out the Champions League. In the aftermath of Spurs losing to Manchester City it was widely feared that the influential forward would leave, but he has declared his intentions to stay at White Hart Lane by telling Harry Redknapp "I want to stay."
With Spurs' intentions of progressing further in the English Premier League badly hit by missing out the Champions League for the second year running, it was felt by many that the Lilywhites would be forced to sell some of their best players in an effort to rebuild for the future.
It was mentioned in hushed tones around the club that the likes of Luka Modric, so long a transfer target for Manchester United, Gareth Bale, and van der Vaart would be sold to balance the books and provide Harry Redknapp with the kind of transfer kitty that may enable him to launch an assault on the top four next year.
But in a recent interview with the London Evening Standard, van der Vaart has stated his intentions at staying with the club next season.
"Do I see myself at Tottenham for the next few years? Of course," he said.
"Against the big teams, we always play well but, with due respect, against the smaller teams we dropped too many points and, if you do that, you don't deserve to be in the Champions League."Spurs only took 14 points from the 36 available against the bottom six sides this season and have found it tough to break teams down that come with the soul intention of damage limitation and not opening up.
This fact was recognised by Harry Redknapp who, in January, tried to bring in a striker in the mould of Didier Drogba to lead the front-line and partner van der Vaart in attack. However, the Spurs boss found it next to impossible to sign a forward of the required calibre and as the season moved on; his teams inadequacies were magnified as they struggled to come to terms with mounting injuries and misfiring strikers.
"Still, we have had a great season and a long one, as well. Everyone gets tired, but when you win games like the one at Anfield [defeating Liverpool 2-0 on Sunday], it gives you a lot of confidence," he added.
"You want to be in the Champions League, but you want to play in the Europa League as well. It's a great title to win and it means you play at least twice most weeks, which is important."
"The Europa League can help our development in Europe but you have to remember that we did well in the Champions League. Reaching the quarter-finals in our first season was fantastic."Spurs, under Redknapp, have undoubtedly progressed from potential relegation candidates in 2009 to Champions League contenders in 2011. The signing of van der Vaart from Real Madrid for just £8 million was a sublime piece of business and his inclusion in the Tottenham squad has helped improve many of the players not least Luka Modric, Sandro, and Gareth Bale. His experience, goals, and ability to read the game, have been key to Redknapp changing his formation as Spurs moved to a more European approach to the game.
Since coming in the Dutchman has scored 13 goals from 28 games in the Premier League and has also combined nine assists. Primarily used as a deep lying forward or an attack minded midfielder, depending upon your point of view, his inclusion has been key to Spurs progressing to the Quarter Finals in the Champions League.
The problem for Redknapp as far as van der Vaart is concerned is his partners. None of the strikers currently at the club are of the quality needed to launch a concerted challenge to the elite of the Premier League and if Spurs are to continue their progression, a forward has to be added during the summer whilst holding onto their other key players.
Rumours have started to surface about a deal involving Dimitar Berbatov and cash for Luka Modric as Manchester United looks to find a replacement for Paul Scholes. But it would seem unlikely that Redknapp would want to part with one of his crown jewels for a one paced striker that would not compliment van der Vaart in attack.
"You have to keep your best players," said Harry Redknapp on the growing speculation that he might have to sell.
"Add to them and make sure you’re up there challenging every year,” he added. Why can’t Tottenham win the championship? It’s not impossible. If we want to maintain what we have done we need to improve again."Meanwhile, across London, there is a growing belief that Didier Drogba has been told by Roman Abramovich that he has no future at the club. The 33-year-old is out of contract in 2012 and the new regime at Chelsea is loath to offer contact extensions to players over 30, so there is a very real chance Drogba will be allowed to leave this summer as they look to recoup some money.
Spurs and Redknapp are undoubtedly interested in bringing the Ivorian in, but it remains to be seen if club the Chairman Daniel Levy will sanction the wage demands of the striker, a reported £130,000 per week.
Should Spurs manage to hold onto the star assets and add a player of Drogba's superb reputation they will instantly become viable challengers for the top four next season, and possibly the title as well.