A product of the famous Ajax academy, Rafael van der Vaart has had a turbulent career so far. From his Ajax days to joining Tottenham Hotspurs recently, let’s take a look at how Van Der Vaart’s career graph has been shaped and how he ended up at White Hart Lane along with what service he can offer the Lilywhites.
A Short Recap
Rafa made his debut for Ajax at a tender age of 17 after impressing the coaches in the Ajax academy. Although a bright talent at Ajax, he suffered back to back injuries that kept him out of the team for a while during his early days. But all was not gloomy for Rafa at Ajax as he was voted the “European Talent of the Year” by Italian website “CalcioManager” in 2001. He was however transferred to Hamburg following controversies surrounding his nightlife and Ronald Koeman’s tactics entailing him to play out of position as a support striker rather than as an attacking midfielder – where he plays best.
Hamburg paid Ajax €5.5 million to obtain the Dutchman’s services in 2005, where Rafa enjoyed substantial success. He finished as the team’s top scorer in his first season helping them to secure an impressive third spot in the Bundesliga. He later inherited the captain’s armband and led Hamburg to a fourth place finish in the league the following season scoring a notable twelve goals in the process. Various offers poured in, but he rejected all of them , including prominent offers from Chelsea and Valencia, to join Real Madrid for €13 million at the beginning of the 2008-2009 season.
Following Dutch compatriot Sneijder’s injury in 2008, Van Der Vaart started impressing at Real Madrid making immediate impact by scoring his first career hat-trick against Sporting Gijon in a league game. But that was all Rafa would enjoy with the Los Blancos, as he was over and again neglected by Real’s coaches – first from Juande Ramos – who merely used him as an impact substitute and later cruelly abandoned by Manuel Pellegrini in preseason and the initial games. He did however get chances to play later on in the season and Rafa scored some important goals – one against Sevilla to keep Real’s title hopes alive. But that didn’t perk up his fortune and he decided to move on. On the deadline day of this summer transfer window, right at the end, he decided to join Spurs, who made an audacious bid to acquire him and succeeded in convincing Real Madrid to sell him for £8 million.
Spurs have had a tremendous year and a half under Harry Redknapp enjoying success and breaking the so-called “Top-4” trend in the Premier League. They then qualified for the Champions’ League group stages by putting in a handsome performance against Swiss hopefuls Young Boys and beating them 4-0 en route. Van Der Vaart has probably ended up at the right place, where he can showcase his abilities consistently and enjoy success like he enjoyed at Hamburg. It’ll be fascinating to see how Harry lines him up in his already opulently talented squad. A possibility that can offer Rafa first team football in London is the use of a 4-1-3-2 formation by Harry with Corluka, King, Dawson, and Bale covering the back-4 positions, Huddlestone shielding them, and Lennon, Rafa, Modric offering attacking options to Crouch and Defoe. Being the attack minded player he is, Rafa offers several possibilities to Harry and Spurs. He plays best in the hole behind the two strikers.
Something which one can expect from the Dutchman
But he has also played as a support striker at Ajax and on the left wing for the Dutch National team. But using him behind the strikers will be the best option for Harry as Rafa’s play is dipped with creativity. With Lennon and Modric operating on the wings, Spurs can become a team who can challenge for the top-4 spots consistently. With his experience in Europe, Rafa can also help them reach at least the knockout stages in their first ever Champions League campaign. But one thing that might thwart him from being a success at White Hart Lane is his unremitting injury troubles. It’ll be interesting to see if Van Der Vaart can muddle through the physical nature of the Premier League game. But one thing’s for sure. Van Der Vaart is going to give a lot of excitement to the Spurs’ fans as he oozes passion and commitment along with the unquestionable technique he has, when he puts on a football jersey.
There’s a lot for the Spurs’ fans to look forward to about their high profile last ditch summer signing. Here’s hoping that Rafael Van Der Vaart can give the Spurs and BPL fans a lot to enjoy!