In an exclusive interview with Kick Off, former Tottenham Hotspur star Rafael van der Vaart has shared insight of his own experience of working under the club’s new manager, Jose Mourinho.
The pair spent three months working together at the Real Madrid before the former Dutch international was sold to Spurs following the 2010 FIFA World Cup final with Netherlands, but reveals that the Mourinho was always upfront with him about his future.
"I know him as a really honest person so as a player you know exactly what he wants," van der Vaart shares. "He said to me, 'Rafael, you know we have Kaká and we're going to buy Mesut Özil and you're too good to be on the bench, so if you have the possibility you still can leave'."
Van der Vaart made 73 appearances for Los Blancos during his two-season stay at the club and admits that he would have liked to have stayed longer under Mourinho, but external factors always dictated that his future lay elsewhere.
"Yeah, of course. I played two years in Madrid and the funny thing is that I had a really good first year but the club tried to sell me, just like Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben. We all needed to be sold because a new president took over the leadership and bought [Cristiano] Ronaldo, Kaka, [Karim] Benzema and Xabi Alonso.
"But I stayed and played under [Manuel] Pellegrini for another season [but] then they said again after the World Cup final when I came back that I can leave, and then I thought 'Okay, maybe it's time to go to a club that wants you'. Then Tottenham came on the last day of the transfer window and I felt it in my stomach that I had to do this."
Despite the brevity of their working relationship, Van der Vaart holds a certain fondness for his former boss which stems from their shared competitiveness and inherent drive to be the best. He shares a priceless anecdote about his first encounter with the Setúbal-born manager and how he immediately commanded the star-studded dressing room at Madrid.
"We grew up at Ajax in Holland being positive, confident, maybe a bit arrogant at times so we all think we are the best, and he's the same.
"I remember the first meeting we had at Real Madrid, he came into the dressing and said, 'Guys, if you do everything that I say, we are never going to lose a game, you're always going to win’.
"Ronaldo's sitting there, Kaka, all the big names, and he walks in and says, 'if you do what I say, we're going to win all the games." Van der Vaart chuckles as if he is still in disbelief of Mourinho’s brazen introduction, "I also truly believe that he thinks like that. And we as players got that feeling too."