Rafael van der Vaart believes the Premier League is the toughest division in the world, admitting it is hard to maintain his fitness.
Tottenham's Dutch star reveals demands on fitness
Tottenham midfielder Rafael van der Vaart believes the Premier League is the toughest division in the world, admitting it is hard to maintain his fitness throughout the season.
The Holland international is a good judge given he has played in four of Europe's top leagues, beginning his career with Dutch side Ajax before moving to Germany to play for Hamburg in 2005.
He then enjoyed a two-year spell with Spanish giants Real Madrid before moving to White Hart lane in the summer of 2010.
The 29-year-old believes the Premier League is physically the toughest he has played in and thinks that may have played a part in the struggles of English clubs in Europe this season.
With Euro 2012 on the horizon this summer, Van der Vaart also admits he faces a battle to stay fit for the tournament given the physical demands placed on him in England.
"The English league is by far the toughest in the world," he said.
"I can judge that personally. The Premier League is stronger than Spain.
"In Spain, Barcelona and Real Madrid could have a tough match when they visit the teams at the bottom of the table. But that's because every Spanish club has a couple of good individual players.
"In England all the away games are difficult due to the pace, power and working spirit from the first minute until the last.
"At the away game at Stoke I thought about walking off the pitch after 25 minutes.
"They didn't do anything but bashing, tackling and using the long ball. Totally not my style, but they are getting results with it.
"In Europe the Spanish and not the English clubs are ruling. But for me that just confirms what I said.
"The intensity in England is so big; they ask a lot of you."
Van der Vaart also feels the Premier League could benefit from a winter break, mirroring other leagues across Europe.
He added: "In England you cannot do without a winter break, a small break to charge your batteries. But will that ever happen?
"At the moment I am only just fully fit again."