Rafael van der Vaart
- Full name Rafael van der Vaart
- Birth date February 11, 1983
- Birth place Heemskerk, Netherlands
- Current age 31 years 67 days
- Height 5 ft 10 in
Once one of the most highly-rated players in Dutch football, Van der Vaart suffered from a poor spell at Real Madrid, but has always been viewed as a gem in his homeland.
A product of Ajax's famous youth academy, Van der Vaart made his debut for the Amsterdam club in the 1999-2000 season, aged 17, in a 1-1 draw with FC Den Bosch. Much of his early career was blighted by a series of knee injuries which saw him spend several months out of the first team. He made an average of only 23 appearances a season in five years with Ajax before leaving the club in the summer of 2005.
From Ajax he headed to the Bundesliga with Hamburg, a surprising move for a player who had been linked with much bigger clubs. He helped Hamburg to three successful seasons, qualifying for the UEFA Cup and being named the club's skipper, before he got the big move that was always expected. He went to Real in the summer of 2008 but, despite establishing himself on the international stage at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, he was reduced to a bit-part role and chose to move to Spurs in August.
Van der Vaart struck up a spellbinding partnership with Gareth Bale and Luka Modric in the Spurs midfield, scoring 28 goals in 78 matches during his two years at the club. But the departure of Harry Redknapp again saw him viewed as surplus to requirements in Andre Villas-Boas' side, and he rejoined Hamburg.
Strengths: A versatile midfielder, good shooting, set piece specialist and a potential match-winner.
Weaknesses: Suspect in the air, his consistency has also been called into question.
Career high: Named the 2003 European Young Player of the Year.
Career low: Being left without a squad number at the start of the 2009-10 season with Real Madrid when told he was surplus to requirements.
Style: Versatile, classy, an excellent passer of the ball.
Quotes: "He has taken a big risk. Though Rafael has had signs he will play, nothing is guaranteed after what went on in pre-season. He's made his choice, but will he even play in his favoured position? At Madrid he is just one more player." Holland coach Bert Van Marwijk on the player's decision to stay at the Bernabeu in 2009.
Trivia: His wife, Sylvie, has claimed that the player's legs are too heavy and they cannot sleep in the same bed. "It's just as well," she says. "His legs are heavy. If I get under them I can't get out."
- Van der Vaart completes Hamburg switch (Aug 31, 2012)
- Van der Vaart heads to Hamburg for medical (Aug 31, 2012)
- Villas-Boas mocks Hamburg offer for Van der Vaart (Aug 30, 2012)
- Hamburg struggling to strike Van der Vaart deal (Aug 29, 2012)
Van der Vaart: Modric decision in three or four days (Jul 23, 2012)