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Redknapp: Van der Vaart is key player in Tottenham's season

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Spurs boss praises Dutchman
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp speaks to CNN ahead of clash with FC Twente
  • Wednesday's game is Spurs' first ever home Champions League tie
  • Redknapp says Rafael Van der Vaart is a key player for his side this season
  • Dutch midfielder joined from Spanish giants Real Madrid on transfer deadline day

(CNN) -- Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has told CNN his Dutch playmaker Rafael Van der Vaart is key to the English club's fortunes this season.

The midfielder was signed from Real Madrid in a dramatic, multi-million dollar switch just minutes before the European transfer window slammed shut earlier this month.

Van der Vaart found himself surplus to requirements at the Bernabeu under new coach Jose Mourinho but he has been in sparkling form for the Premier League club.

Redknapp admits the 27-year-old was in need of a confidence boost upon his arrival in north London but says he will be a vital player as his side prepare to host their first ever Champions League tie at White Hart Lane.

Before the clash with Dutch champions FC Twente, Redknapp told CNN: "Van der Vaart was, if you like, a bit part player at Real Madrid. He wasn't in the team, he was on the bench and his confidence was low.

"He's come here and we've made him feel very important. He's a key player in our team and we base a lot of our game around how he plays and where we play him.

Van der Vaart is a key player in our team and we base a lot of our game around how he plays and where we play him
--Harry Redknapp, Tottenham manager
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"We look to get him on the ball and lots of our play comes from him so I think that's important for him. Confidence wise that will do him the world of good to make him feel very important and a good player in our team."

The former Ajax and Hamburg star has already made an impact, scoring his first goal in Tottenham's Premier League victory over Wolves and setting one up for Peter Crouch in the 2-2 draw with Werder Bremen in their opening Champions League tie.

Redknapp told CNN of the frantic dash to complete the signing as the clock ticked towards the transfer deadline on September 1.

"It was a late, late shout to be honest," he explained. "It was transfer deadline day at four o'clock I got the phone-call from the chairman to say 'I've got a present for you.'

"I said 'What's that' and he said 'Van der Vaart on loan, would you be interested?' and I said 'Yeah that would be a great loan signing' so that's how I left it.

"About five o'clock it turned out it wasn't possible and the chairman came back and said 'Look, I've got a chance to buy him at a good price.' I didn't push him to be honest, I don't want to push him to buy anybody, I didn't want to spend his money."

Having become the first team outside the recognized top four in England to make the group stages of Europe's premier club competition since Newcastle United in 2003, Redknapp must now make sure Spurs' domestic form doesn't suffer as a result.

He said: "It's a difficult one -- it's that juggling act every game -- you want to do well in both of them but in the Champions League we want to have a run.

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"We've got into the group stage from that scary knock-out game with Young Boys in Berne (Tottenham won 6-3 on aggregate) and now we'd like to get into the next group if we can -- that would be a good achievement for us in our first season."

Redknapp raised some eyebrows when he signed defender William Gallas in August. The French defender spent four years at Tottenham's bitter London rivals Arsenal, but Redknapp says the 33-year-old's experience is invaluable.

He told CNN: "He knows the game, and you know what he's going to give you. You're assured of a performance from him week in week out.

"I think the lads look up to him. When someone's got the type of record that he's had -- Champions League football, championships at Chelsea -- they know that we're getting a real top-class performer, and I think he brings an air of experience around the place."

Redknapp has a long track record of success in England but relatively little experience in European competitions, though he says it is the quality of his players that will be the deciding factor in Spurs' Champions League campaign.

"I think good players are more important playing in Europe," he told CNN. "But having said that look at last year, Mourinho, what he did was fantastic at Inter Milan -- he set them up to be difficult to beat and went all the way and won it.

"But it's about good players. You can be the best manager in the world, have all the experience, but we're all as good as our players at the end of the day."