Rafael van der Vaart: Tottenham have trump card to beat Real Madrid
Rafael van der Vaart was left speechless following Tottenham's last visit to Real Madrid but he believes Spurs now hold the trump card his team lacked.
Only 14 minutes had passed when Peter Crouch, already on a yellow card, flew in late on Marcelo in 2011 and was dismissed to consign Harry Redknapp's side to two Champions League quarter-final legs of humiliation and defeat.
Down to 10 men, Tottenham were crushed 4-0 in the Santiago Bernabeu and Van der Vaart paid a particularly high price.
He was shoehorned into Crouch's role of lone target-man, booked, and then replaced after 46 minutes by Jermain Defoe. A 1-0 loss at White Hart Lane confirmed a disappointing end to an otherwise exhilarating campaign.
"I was angry after, of course, in the changing room to be honest I found it difficult to speak," Van der Vaart told Press Association Sport.
"It all turned on that red card. We had started so well in the Champions League, it was really something special that year. It was a hard one to take."
They had taken the tournament by storm, inspired by the power of Gareth Bale and craft of Luka Modric. Bale demolished Inter Milan in the groups before Crouch's winner knocked out AC in the last 16.
Bale, who may not be fit, and Modric will both be donning Madrid colours when Tottenham walk out at the Bernabeu on Tuesday but Van der Vaart says their Spurs successors have something extra.
"We had four or five stand-out players you come to the stadium to watch but now with Tottenham you come for the whole team," Van der Vaart said.
"They need to use that against Madrid because this is the biggest difference now and also their biggest strength. They are a fantastic team."
Now 34, Van der Vaart's eclectic career is winding down at Danish club FC Midtjylland, perhaps the final stop on a journey that began in the Ajax youth system and continued via Hamburg, Madrid, Tottenham, a second spell at Hamburg and Real Betis.
But it was at Spurs, with Redknapp, where the Dutchman's creative talents were most allowed to blossom.
"What a manager, he just made us enjoy our games," Van der Vaart said.
"Before Real Madrid, the team-talk I remember was similar to always - he just said, 'they are a great team, no doubt, we have a great team too. We have great players in here and on our day we can beat them'.
"That was how he looked at football and I like a manager who sees the game in that way. It was true but we also needed 11 against 11 to have a chance."
Now Harry Kane is being talked about as one capable of following in Bale and Modric's footsteps in leaving Tottenham for Madrid.
"The thing is nobody says no to Real Madrid," Van der Vaart said.
"But when I see Harry Kane now at Tottenham, the club also want to be bigger and bigger, winning the league, the Champions League, with a new stadium. There is so much to play for.
"I hope he will stay. Real Madrid of course is something special but Spurs are special to him too."